Bats found in Switzerland host 39 different virus families

16 families previously found to be able to infect other vertebrates

Switzerland has analysis bats of 18 species of stationary and migratory bats living in the country has discovered that they harbor viruses from 39 different viral families.

They study shows that include some viruses with the potential risk of jumping to other animals, including humans, and causing disease.

Isabelle Hardmeier of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on June 16, 2021.

The researchers had monitoring the viruses harbored by bats around the world could improve understanding and detection of those that pose risk to humans. However, while previous research has investigated viruses carried by bats in several different countries, none have focused on Switzerland. The researchers investigated viruses carried by more than 7,000 bats living in Switzerland. They analyzed DNA and RNA sequences of viruses found in organ, fecal, or stool samples collected from the bats. The study revealed the presence of 39 different families of viruses, including 16 families previously found to be able to infect other vertebrates, and which therefore could potentially be transmitted to other animals or humans.

The study also shows that one of the bat colonies harbored a near-complete genome of a virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-related coronavirus (CoV). While the MERS-CoV-related virus is not known to cause disease in humans, MERS-CoV has been responsible for an epidemic in 2012. This type of tracking could potentially detect accumulations of viral genetic mutations that could increase the risk of transmission to other animals, enabling earlier detection of viruses that pose danger to humans.

The authors add: "Metagenomic analysis of bats endemic to Switzerland reveals broad virus genome diversity. Virus genomes from 39 different virus families were detected, 16 of which are know to infect vertebrates, including coronaviruses, adenoviruses, hepeviruses, rotaviruses A and H, and parvoviruses."

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