A new study has shown that bats in Switzerland carry a variety of viruses, some of which are potentially zoonotic.
Analysis of 18 species of native and migratory bats found in Switzerland showed that they are carriers of 39 types of the virus. Some of these are potentially at risk of transferring to other animals, including humans. They also lead to disease. The research results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Although there are several known cases of pathogenic viruses spreading directly from bats to humans, some of the pathogens are transmitted to other animals and then to humans. For example, the new type of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have evolved from a virus that was passed from a bat to another animal before infecting humans.
Scientists have studied viruses carried by more than 7,000 bats that live in Switzerland or migrate to its territory. In particular, they analyzed the DNA and RNA sequences of viruses found in organ and fecal samples taken from bats.
Genomic analysis revealed the presence of 39 different virus families. Among them, 16 viruses can infect other vertebrates and, therefore, have the potential to be transmitted to other animals or humans. Further analysis showed that one of the bat colonies examined contained an almost complete genome of a virus known as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (CoV) associated with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) related coronavirus, MERS-CoV). The first cases of the new virus were reported in Saudi Arabia in early fall 2012. Of the more than 50 reported MERS cases by June 2013, about half were fatal.
In addition to coronaviruses, bats have been found to have adenoviruses, hepeviruses, rotaviruses A and H, and parvoviruses.