Further evidence for bats as the evolutionary source of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus

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Further evidence for bats as the evolutionary source of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus

S.J. Anthony, K. Gilardi, V.D. Menachery, T. Goldstein, B. Ssebide, R Mbabazi, I. Navarrete-Macias, E. Liang, H. Wells, A. Hicks, A. Petrosov, D.K. Byarugaba, K. Debbink, K.H. Dinnon, T. Scobey, S.H. Randell, B.L. Yount, M. Cranfield, C.K. Johnson, R.S. Baric, W.I. Lipkin, J.A.K. Mazet

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The discovery of a MERS-like coronavirus in an insectivorous bat from Uganda lends support for bats as the evolutionary source of MERS-CoV. 

Key Findings 

  • This newly discovered MERS-like virus shares >85% genetic similarity to MERS-CoV, a zoonotic virus that emerged in 2012 and causes respiratory illness in humans with a case-fatality rate of 34% 
  • Differences within the viral spike protein of this novel MERS-like virus made it unable to bind with the human receptor used by MERS-CoV 

Informing Action 

This research highlights the importance of surveying wildlife for pathogens capable of zoonotic transmission and of using additional metrics, outside of genetic similarity, to determine whether a virus carries zoonotic risk. 

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