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A persistently infecting coronavirus in hibernating Myotis lucifugus, the North American little brown bat.

J Gen Virol; 98(9): 2297-2309, 2017 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-28840816

Abstract

Bats are important reservoir hosts for emerging viruses, including coronaviruses that cause diseases in people. Although there have been several studies on the pathogenesis of coronaviruses in humans and surrogate animals, there is little information on the interactions of these viruses with their natural bat hosts. We detected a coronavirus in the intestines of 53/174 hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), as well as in the lungs of some of these individuals. Interestingly, the presence of the virus was not accompanied by overt inflammation. Viral RNA amplified from little brown bats in this study appeared to be from two distinct clades. The sequences in clade 1 were very similar to the archived sequence derived from little brown bats and the sequences from clade 2 were more closely related to the archived sequence from big brown bats. This suggests that two closely related coronaviruses may circulate in little brown bats. Sequence variation among coronavirus detected from individual bats suggested that infection occurred prior to hibernation, and that the virus persisted for up to 4 months of hibernation in the laboratory. Based on the sequence of its genome, the coronavirus was placed in the Alphacoronavirus genus, along with some human coronaviruses, bat viruses and the porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus. The detection and identification of an apparently persistent coronavirus in a local bat species creates opportunities to understand the dynamics of coronavirus circulation in bat populations.