Bats provoked an epidemic of the KoRV virus among koalas. According to a study by scientists from Monash University, relatives of the KoRV retrovirus are present in the genome of bats-bats. The work was published in the journal PNAS.
Since 2011, an epidemic of the disease caused by the KoRV retrovirus has been raging in Australia. Only koalas are infected with them – for nine years, according to scientists, their population has decreased by 60%. The reason was not only the virus, but also forest fires and changes in the environment due to human activities.
KoRV causes immunodeficiency syndrome in animals. It is known that the virus can be transmitted within the population: not only from one animal to another but also from mother to calf. At first, the researchers believed that it had been stored in the genome of koalas for a long time, and then for some reason it woke up.
However, since 2013 it has been known that the causative agent of the disease is the virus – while its carrier has not yet been determined. In a new study, scientists made a new attempt to find a carrier – and turned their attention to bats-winged bats.
Researchers for seven years collected samples of blood and biological fluid of bats and analyzed their genome. The work showed that some species of winged birds, such as bavian flying foxes, were almost completely infected with these retroviruses.
“We collected blood and bat samples from the entire east coast of Australia to see if KoRV-related viruses were present in their bodies. Our study showed that such pathogens were present in the body of at least three species of winged bats: Bavean flying foxes, Australian winged wings and small long-speaking winged wings”.
Joshua Hayward, lead author of the study