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1.  Lagos Bat Virus in Kenya▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2008;46(4):1451-1461.
During lyssavirus surveillance, 1,221 bats of at least 30 species were collected from 25 locations in Kenya. One isolate of Lagos bat virus (LBV) was obtained from a dead Eidolon helvum fruit bat. The virus was most similar phylogenetically to LBV isolates from Senegal (1985) and from France (imported from Togo or Egypt; 1999), sharing with these viruses 100% nucleoprotein identity and 99.8 to 100% glycoprotein identity. This genome conservancy across space and time suggests that LBV is well adapted to its natural host species and that populations of reservoir hosts in eastern and western Africa have sufficient interactions to share pathogens. High virus concentrations, in addition to being detected in the brain, were detected in the salivary glands and tongue and in an oral swab, suggesting that LBV is transmitted in the saliva. In other extraneural organs, the virus was generally associated with innervations and ganglia. The presence of infectious virus in the reproductive tract and in a vaginal swab implies an alternative opportunity for transmission. The isolate was pathogenic for laboratory mice by the intracerebral and intramuscular routes. Serologic screening demonstrated the presence of LBV-neutralizing antibodies in E. helvum and Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats. In different colonies the seroprevalence ranged from 40 to 67% and 29 to 46% for E. helvum and R. aegyptiacus, respectively. Nested reverse transcription-PCR did not reveal the presence of viral RNA in oral swabs of bats in the absence of brain infection. Several large bat roosts were identified in areas of dense human populations, raising public health concerns for the potential of lyssavirus infection.
PMCID: PMC2292963  PMID: 18305130
2.  Henipavirus Neutralising Antibodies in an Isolated Island Population of African Fruit Bats 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30346.
Isolated islands provide valuable opportunities to study the persistence of viruses in wildlife populations, including population size thresholds such as the critical community size. The straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, has been identified as a reservoir for henipaviruses (serological evidence) and Lagos bat virus (LBV; virus isolation and serological evidence) in continental Africa. Here, we sampled from a remote population of E. helvum annobonensis fruit bats on Annobón island in the Gulf of Guinea to investigate whether antibodies to these viruses also exist in this isolated subspecies. Henipavirus serological analyses (Luminex multiplexed binding and inhibition assays, virus neutralisation tests and western blots) and lyssavirus serological analyses (LBV: modified Fluorescent Antibody Virus Neutralisation test, LBV and Mokola virus: lentivirus pseudovirus neutralisation assay) were undertaken on 73 and 70 samples respectively. Given the isolation of fruit bats on Annobón and their lack of connectivity with other populations, it was expected that the population size on the island would be too small to allow persistence of viruses that are thought to cause acute and immunising infections. However, the presence of antibodies against henipaviruses was detected using the Luminex binding assay and confirmed using alternative assays. Neutralising antibodies to LBV were detected in one bat using both assays. We demonstrate clear evidence for exposure of multiple individuals to henipaviruses in this remote population of E. helvum annobonensis fruit bats on Annobón island. The situation is less clear for LBV. Seroprevalences to henipaviruses and LBV in Annobón are notably different to those in E. helvum in continental locations studied using the same sampling techniques and assays. Whilst cross-sectional serological studies in wildlife populations cannot provide details on viral dynamics within populations, valuable information on the presence or absence of viruses may be obtained and utilised for informing future studies.
PMCID: PMC3257271  PMID: 22253928
3.  Seasonal Pulses of Marburg Virus Circulation in Juvenile Rousettus aegyptiacus Bats Coincide with Periods of Increased Risk of Human Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(10):e1002877.
Marburg virus (family Filoviridae) causes sporadic outbreaks of severe hemorrhagic disease in sub-Saharan Africa. Bats have been implicated as likely natural reservoir hosts based most recently on an investigation of cases among miners infected in 2007 at the Kitaka mine, Uganda, which contained a large population of Marburg virus-infected Rousettus aegyptiacus fruit bats. Described here is an ecologic investigation of Python Cave, Uganda, where an American and a Dutch tourist acquired Marburg virus infection in December 2007 and July 2008. More than 40,000 R. aegyptiacus were found in the cave and were the sole bat species present. Between August 2008 and November 2009, 1,622 bats were captured and tested for Marburg virus. Q-RT-PCR analysis of bat liver/spleen tissues indicated ∼2.5% of the bats were actively infected, seven of which yielded Marburg virus isolates. Moreover, Q-RT-PCR-positive lung, kidney, colon and reproductive tissues were found, consistent with potential for oral, urine, fecal or sexual transmission. The combined data for R. aegyptiacus tested from Python Cave and Kitaka mine indicate low level horizontal transmission throughout the year. However, Q-RT-PCR data show distinct pulses of virus infection in older juvenile bats (∼six months of age) that temporarily coincide with the peak twice-yearly birthing seasons. Retrospective analysis of historical human infections suspected to have been the result of discrete spillover events directly from nature found 83% (54/65) events occurred during these seasonal pulses in virus circulation, perhaps demonstrating periods of increased risk of human infection. The discovery of two tags at Python Cave from bats marked at Kitaka mine, together with the close genetic linkages evident between viruses detected in geographically distant locations, are consistent with R. aegyptiacus bats existing as a large meta-population with associated virus circulation over broad geographic ranges. These findings provide a basis for developing Marburg hemorrhagic fever risk reduction strategies.
Author Summary
Marburg virus, like its close relative Ebola virus, can cause large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever with case fatalities nearing 90%. For decades the identity of the natural reservoir was unknown. However, in 2007 Marburg viruses were isolated directly from Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) that inhabited a Ugandan gold mine where miners were previously infected. Soon after, two tourists became infected with Marburg virus after visiting nearby Python Cave, a popular attraction in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. This cave also contained R. aegyptiacus bats (∼40,000 animals). These events prompted a long-term investigation of Python Cave to determine if, 1) R. aegyptiacus in the cave carried infectious Marburg virus genetically similar to that found in the tourists, and 2) what ecological factors might influence virus spillover to humans. In the study, we found that, 1) approximately 2.5% of the bat colony is actively infected at any one time and that virus isolates from bats are genetically similar to those from infected tourists, and 2) specific age groups of bats (juveniles∼six months of age) are particularly likely to be infected at specific times of the year that roughly coincide with historical dates of Marburg virus spillover into humans.
PMCID: PMC3464226  PMID: 23055920
4.  Evidence for henipavirus spillover into human populations in Africa 
Nature Communications  2014;5:5342.
Zoonotic transmission of lethal henipaviruses (HNVs) from their natural fruit bat reservoirs to humans has only been reported in Australia and South/Southeast Asia. However, a recent study discovered numerous HNV clades in African bat samples. To determine the potential for HNV spillover events among humans in Africa, here we examine well-curated sets of bat (Eidolon helvum, n=44) and human (n=497) serum samples from Cameroon for Nipah virus (NiV) cross-neutralizing antibodies (NiV-X-Nabs). Using a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-based pseudoparticle seroneutralization assay, we detect NiV-X-Nabs in 48% and 3–4% of the bat and human samples, respectively. Seropositive human samples are found almost exclusively in individuals who reported butchering bats for bushmeat. Seropositive human sera also neutralize Hendra virus and Gh-M74a (an African HNV) pseudoparticles, as well as live NiV. Butchering bat meat and living in areas undergoing deforestation are the most significant risk factors associated with seropositivity. Evidence for HNV spillover events warrants increased surveillance efforts.
Henipaviruses (HNVs) infect bats in Asia and Africa, but transmission to humans (often with lethal consequences) is known only in Asia. Here the authors show that 3% of human serum samples from certain areas in Cameroon contain antibodies against HNV, indicating spillover into the human population.
PMCID: PMC4237230  PMID: 25405640
5.  Serological Evidence of Ebola Virus Infection in Indonesian Orangutans 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40740.
Ebola virus (EBOV) and Marburg virus (MARV) belong to the family Filoviridae and cause severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and nonhuman primates. Despite the discovery of EBOV (Reston virus) in nonhuman primates and domestic pigs in the Philippines and the serological evidence for its infection of humans and fruit bats, information on the reservoirs and potential amplifying hosts for filoviruses in Asia is lacking. In this study, serum samples collected from 353 healthy Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) in Kalimantan Island, Indonesia, during the period from December 2005 to December 2006 were screened for filovirus-specific IgG antibodies using a highly sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with recombinant viral surface glycoprotein (GP) antigens derived from multiple species of filoviruses (5 EBOV and 1 MARV species). Here we show that 18.4% (65/353) and 1.7% (6/353) of the samples were seropositive for EBOV and MARV, respectively, with little cross-reactivity among EBOV and MARV antigens. In these positive samples, IgG antibodies to viral internal proteins were also detected by immunoblotting. Interestingly, while the specificity for Reston virus, which has been recognized as an Asian filovirus, was the highest in only 1.4% (5/353) of the serum samples, the majority of EBOV-positive sera showed specificity to Zaire, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, or Bundibugyo viruses, all of which have been found so far only in Africa. These results suggest the existence of multiple species of filoviruses or unknown filovirus-related viruses in Indonesia, some of which are serologically similar to African EBOVs, and transmission of the viruses from yet unidentified reservoir hosts into the orangutan populations. Our findings point to the need for risk assessment and continued surveillance of filovirus infection of human and nonhuman primates, as well as wild and domestic animals, in Asia.
PMCID: PMC3399888  PMID: 22815803
6.  Metagenomic study of the viruses of African straw-coloured fruit bats: Detection of a chiropteran poxvirus and isolation of a novel adenovirus 
Virology  2013;441(2):95-106.
Viral emergence as a result of zoonotic transmission constitutes a continuous public health threat. Emerging viruses such as SARS coronavirus, hantaviruses and henipaviruses have wildlife reservoirs. Characterising the viruses of candidate reservoir species in geographical hot spots for viral emergence is a sensible approach to develop tools to predict, prevent, or contain emergence events. Here, we explore the viruses of Eidolon helvum, an Old World fruit bat species widely distributed in Africa that lives in close proximity to humans. We identified a great abundance and diversity of novel herpes and papillomaviruses, described the isolation of a novel adenovirus, and detected, for the first time, sequences of a chiropteran poxvirus closely related with Molluscum contagiosum. In sum, E. helvum display a wide variety of mammalian viruses, some of them genetically similar to known human pathogens, highlighting the possibility of zoonotic transmission.
•The first metagenomic study of a chiropteran (bat) suborder.•Demonstrates a novel and thorough bioinformatics pipeline for metagenomic studies.•Multiple novel, diverse viruses present in an urban African bat bushmeat species.•The study is supported with further molecular evidence and virus isolation.•The study contains the first evidence of chiropteran poxviruses and a novel bat adenovirus isolate.
PMCID: PMC3667569  PMID: 23562481
Virome; Bat; Megabat; Poxvirus; Viral emergence; Metagenomics; Adenovirus
7.  Continent-wide panmixia of an African fruit bat facilitates transmission of potentially zoonotic viruses 
Nature communications  2013;4:10.1038/ncomms3770.
The straw-coloured fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, is Africa’s most widely distributed and commonly hunted fruit bat, often living in close proximity to human populations. This species has been identified as a reservoir of potentially zoonotic viruses, but uncertainties remain regarding viral transmission dynamics and mechanisms of persistence. Here we combine genetic and serological analyses of populations across Africa, to determine the extent of epidemiological connectivity among E. helvum populations. Multiple markers reveal panmixia across the continental range, at a greater geographical scale than previously recorded for any other mammal, whereas populations on remote islands were genetically distinct. Multiple serological assays reveal antibodies to henipaviruses and Lagos bat virus in all locations, including small isolated island populations, indicating that factors other than population size and connectivity may be responsible for viral persistence. Our findings have potentially important public health implications, and highlight a need to avoid disturbances which may precipitate viral spillover.
PMCID: PMC3836177  PMID: 24253424
8.  Uncovering the fruit bat bushmeat commodity chain and the true extent of fruit bat hunting in Ghana, West Africa 
Biological Conservation  2011;144(12):3000-3008.
► We study how fruit bats are hunted and sold as bushmeat in Ghana, West Africa. ► Globally, bats are under-represented in market reviews, and threatened by hunting. ► 128,000 Eidolon helvum are sold each year in southern Ghana. ► Fruit bats do not follow the normal commodity chain for bushmeat. ► E. helvum may be missed by market surveys and threatened by this level of hunting.
Harvesting, consumption and trade of bushmeat are important causes of both biodiversity loss and potential zoonotic disease emergence. In order to identify possible ways to mitigate these threats, it is essential to improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which bushmeat gets from the site of capture to the consumer’s table. In this paper we highlight the previously unrecognized scale of hunting of the African straw-colored fruit bat, Eidolon helvum, a species which is important in both ecological and public health contexts, and describe the commodity chain in southern Ghana for its trade. Based on interviews with 551 Ghanaians, including bat hunters, vendors and consumers, we estimate that a minimum of 128,000 E. helvum bats are sold each year through a commodity chain stretching up to 400 km and involving multiple vendors. Unlike the general bushmeat trade in Ghana, where animals are sold in both specialized bushmeat markets and in restaurants, E. helvum is sold primarily in marketplaces; many bats are also kept by hunters for personal consumption. The offtake estimated in this paper raises serious conservation concerns, while the commodity chain identified in this study may offer possible points for management intervention. The separation of the E. helvum commodity chain from that of other bushmeat highlights the need for species-specific research in this area, particularly for bats, whose status as bushmeat is largely unknown.
PMCID: PMC3323830  PMID: 22514356
Bushmeat hunting; Commodity chain; Ghana; Eidolon helvum; Fruit bat hunting
9.  Demography of straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana 
Journal of mammalogy  2012;93(5):1393-1404.
Eidolon helvum is widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa where it forms large, dense colonies. The species is migratory and satellite telemetry studies have demonstrated that individuals can migrate over 2,500 km. It is a common source of bush meat in West Africa and evidence of infection with potentially zoonotic viruses has been found in West African colonies. The species, therefore, is of interest to both ecologists and those interested in public health. Despite this, demographic parameters of the species are unknown. We focused our study primarily on a colony of up to 1,000,000 bats that roost in trees in Accra, Ghana to obtain estimates of birth rate and survival probability. Aging of bats by examination of tooth cementum annuli allowed use of life tables to indicate an annual survival probability for juveniles of 0.43 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.16–0.77) and for adults of 0.83 (95% CI 0.73–0.93). Additionally, an annual adult survival probability of 0.63 (95% CI 0.27–0.88) was estimated by following 98 radiocollared bats over a year; capture–recapture data were analyzed using multistate models to address the confounding factor of emigration. True survival probabilities may be in between the 2 estimates, because permanent emigration may lead to underestimation in the capture–recapture study, and population decline may lead to overestimation in the life table analysis. Birth rates (0.96 young per female per year, 95% CI 0.92–0.98) and colony size changes were also estimated. Estimation of these key parameters will allow future analyses of both infection dynamics within, and harvest sustainability of, E. helvum populations.
PMCID: PMC3605799  PMID: 23525358
capture–recapture; Eidolon helvum; multistate model; population dynamics; survival; tooth cementum
10.  Two Novel Parvoviruses in Frugivorous New and Old World Bats 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29140.
Bats, a globally distributed group of mammals with high ecological importance, are increasingly recognized as natural reservoir hosts for viral agents of significance to human and animal health. In the present study, we evaluated pools of blood samples obtained from two phylogenetically distant bat families, in particular from flying foxes (Pteropodidae), Eidolon helvum in West Africa, and from two species of New World leaf-nosed fruit bats (Phyllostomidae), Artibeus jamaicensis and Artibeus lituratus in Central America. A sequence-independent virus discovery technique (VIDISCA) was used in combination with high throughput sequencing to detect two novel parvoviruses: a PARV4-like virus named Eh-BtPV-1 in Eidolon helvum from Ghana and the first member of a putative new genus in Artibeus jamaicensis from Panama (Aj-BtPV-1). Those viruses were circulating in the corresponding bat colony at rates of 7–8%. Aj-BtPV-1 was also found in Artibeus lituratus (5.5%). Both viruses were detected in the blood of infected animals at high concentrations: up to 10E8 and to 10E10 copies/ml for Aj-BtPV-1 and Eh-BtPV-1 respectively. Eh-BtPV-1 was additionally detected in all organs collected from bats (brain, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys and intestine) and spleen and kidneys were identified as the most likely sites where viral replication takes place. Our study shows that bat parvoviruses share common ancestors with known parvoviruses of humans and livestock. We also provide evidence that a variety of Parvovirinae are able to cause active infection in bats and that they are widely distributed in these animals with different geographic origin, ecologies and climatic ranges.
PMCID: PMC3246463  PMID: 22216187
11.  Isolation of Genetically Diverse Marburg Viruses from Egyptian Fruit Bats 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(7):e1000536.
In July and September 2007, miners working in Kitaka Cave, Uganda, were diagnosed with Marburg hemorrhagic fever. The likely source of infection in the cave was Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) based on detection of Marburg virus RNA in 31/611 (5.1%) bats, virus-specific antibody in bat sera, and isolation of genetically diverse virus from bat tissues. The virus isolates were collected nine months apart, demonstrating long-term virus circulation. The bat colony was estimated to be over 100,000 animals using mark and re-capture methods, predicting the presence of over 5,000 virus-infected bats. The genetically diverse virus genome sequences from bats and miners closely matched. These data indicate common Egyptian fruit bats can represent a major natural reservoir and source of Marburg virus with potential for spillover into humans.
Author Summary
Marburg virus, similar to its close cousin Ebola virus, can cause large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever (HF) in rural Africa with case fatalities approaching 90%. For decades, a long-standing enigma has been the identity of the natural reservoir of this deadly virus. In this report, we identify the cave-dwelling Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) as a natural host of Marburg virus based on multiple lines of evidence which include, for the first time ever, the isolation of virus directly from wild-caught and apparently healthy bats. The species R. aegyptiacus is common throughout Africa with distribution into the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Our finding of active virus infection in approximately 5% of R. aegyptiacus bats and their population exceeding 100,000 in Kitaka cave in Uganda suggests there are likely over 5,000 Marburg virus–infected bats in this cave, which is only one of many such cave populations throughout Africa. Clearly, these bats could serve as a major source of virus with potential to initiate human epidemics, and the implications for public health are striking. Additionally, we found highly divergent (21%) genome sequences among viruses circulating in these bat populations, a level of diversity that would result from a long-term association with a suitable reservoir host of large population size.
PMCID: PMC2713404  PMID: 19649327
12.  Type I Interferon Reaction to Viral Infection in Interferon-Competent, Immortalized Cell Lines from the African Fruit Bat Eidolon helvum 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28131.
Bats harbor several highly pathogenic zoonotic viruses including Rabies, Marburg, and henipaviruses, without overt clinical symptoms in the animals. It has been suspected that bats might have evolved particularly effective mechanisms to suppress viral replication. Here, we investigated interferon (IFN) response, -induction, -secretion and -signaling in epithelial-like cells of the relevant and abundant African fruit bat species, Eidolon helvum (E. helvum). Immortalized cell lines were generated; their potential to induce and react on IFN was confirmed, and biological assays were adapted to application in bat cell cultures, enabling comparison of landmark IFN properties with that of common mammalian cell lines. E. helvum cells were fully capable of reacting to viral and artificial IFN stimuli. E. helvum cells showed highest IFN mRNA induction, highly productive IFN protein secretion, and evidence of efficient IFN stimulated gene induction. In an Alphavirus infection model, O'nyong-nyong virus exhibited strong IFN induction but evaded the IFN response by translational rather than transcriptional shutoff, similar to other Alphavirus infections. These novel IFN-competent cell lines will allow comparative research on zoonotic, bat-borne viruses in order to model mechanisms of viral maintenance and emergence in bat reservoirs.
PMCID: PMC3227611  PMID: 22140523
13.  Novel, Potentially Zoonotic Paramyxoviruses from the African Straw-Colored Fruit Bat Eidolon helvum 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(3):1348-1358.
Bats carry a variety of paramyxoviruses that impact human and domestic animal health when spillover occurs. Recent studies have shown a great diversity of paramyxoviruses in an urban-roosting population of straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana. Here, we investigate this further through virus isolation and describe two novel rubulaviruses: Achimota virus 1 (AchPV1) and Achimota virus 2 (AchPV2). The viruses form a phylogenetic cluster with each other and other bat-derived rubulaviruses, such as Tuhoko viruses, Menangle virus, and Tioman virus. We developed AchPV1- and AchPV2-specific serological assays and found evidence of infection with both viruses in Eidolon helvum across sub-Saharan Africa and on islands in the Gulf of Guinea. Longitudinal sampling of E. helvum indicates virus persistence within fruit bat populations and suggests spread of AchPVs via horizontal transmission. We also detected possible serological evidence of human infection with AchPV2 in Ghana and Tanzania. It is likely that clinically significant zoonotic spillover of chiropteran paramyxoviruses could be missed throughout much of Africa where health surveillance and diagnostics are poor and comorbidities, such as infection with HIV or Plasmodium sp., are common.
PMCID: PMC3554137  PMID: 23152534
14.  Henipavirus RNA in African Bats 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6367.
Henipaviruses (Hendra and Nipah virus) are highly pathogenic members of the family Paramyxoviridae. Fruit-eating bats of the Pteropus genus have been suggested as their natural reservoir. Human Henipavirus infections have been reported in a region extending from Australia via Malaysia into Bangladesh, compatible with the geographic range of Pteropus. These bats do not occur in continental Africa, but a whole range of other fruit bats is encountered. One of the most abundant is Eidolon helvum, the African Straw-coloured fruit bat.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Feces from E. helvum roosting in an urban setting in Kumasi/Ghana were tested for Henipavirus RNA. Sequences of three novel viruses in phylogenetic relationship to known Henipaviruses were detected. Virus RNA concentrations in feces were low.
The finding of novel putative Henipaviruses outside Australia and Asia contributes a significant extension of the region of potential endemicity of one of the most pathogenic virus genera known in humans.
PMCID: PMC2712088  PMID: 19636378
15.  Reassortant Group A Rotavirus from Straw-colored Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum) 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2010;16(12):1844-1852.
TOC summary: Bats may be reservoirs of zoonotic viruses that threaten human health.
Bats are known reservoirs of viral zoonoses. We report genetic characterization of a bat rotavirus (Bat/KE4852/07) detected in the feces of a straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum). Six bat rotavirus genes (viral protein [VP] 2, VP6, VP7, nonstructural protein [NSP] 2, NSP3, and NSP5) shared ancestry with other mammalian rotaviruses but were distantly related. The VP4 gene was nearly identical to that of human P[6] rotavirus strains, and the NSP4 gene was closely related to those of previously described mammalian rotaviruses, including human strains. Analysis of partial sequence of the VP1 gene indicated that it was distinct from cognate genes of other rotaviruses. No sequences were obtained for the VP3 and NSP1 genes of the bat rotavirus. This rotavirus was designated G25-P[6]-I15-R8(provisional)-C8-Mx-Ax-N8-T11-E2-H10. Results suggest that several reassortment events have occurred between human, animal, and bat rotaviruses. Several additional rotavirus strains were detected in bats.
PMCID: PMC3294550  PMID: 21122212
Straw-colored fruit bat; Eidolon helvum; rotavirus; viruses; reassortment; heterologous genome segments; podcast; zoonoses; research
16.  Isolation of Irkut Virus from a Murina leucogaster Bat in China 
Background and objectives
Bats are recognized as a major reservoir of lyssaviruses; however, no bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Asia except for Aravan and Khujand virus in Central Asia. All Chinese lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been of species rabies virus, mainly from dogs. Following at least two recent bat-associated human rabies-like cases in northeast China, we have initiated a study of the prevalence of lyssaviruses in bats in Jilin province and their public health implications. A bat lyssavirus has been isolated and its pathogenicity in mice and genomic alignment have been determined.
We report the first isolation of a bat lyssavirus in China, from the brain of a northeastern bat, Murina leucogaster. Its nucleoprotein gene shared 92.4%/98.9% (nucleotide) and 92.2%/98.8% (amino acid) identity with the two known Irkut virus isolates from Russia, and was designated IRKV-THChina12. Following intracranial and intramuscular injection, IRKV-THChina12 produced rabies-like symptoms in adult mice with a short inoculation period and high mortality. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed that IRKV-THChina12 has the same genomic organization as other lyssaviruses and its isolation provides an independent origin for the species IRKV.
We have identified the existence of a bat lyssavirus in a common Chinese bat species. Its high pathogenicity in adult mice suggests that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
Author Summary
The Lyssavirus genus presently comprises 12 species and two unapproved species with different antigenic characteristics. Rabies virus is detectable worldwide; Lagos bat virus, Mokola virus, Duvenhage virus, Shimoni bat virus, and Ikoma lyssavirus circulate in Africa; European bat lyssavirus types 1 and 2, Irkut virus, West Caucasian bat virus, and Bokeloh bat lyssavirus are found in Europe; and Australian bat lyssavirus has been isolated in Australia. Only Aravan and Khujand viruses have been identified in central Asia. Bats are recognized as the most important reservoirs of lyssaviruses. In China, all lyssavirus isolates in previous reports have been rabies virus, mainly from dogs; none has been from bats. Recently, however, at least two bat-associated human rabies or rabies-like cases have been reported in northeast China. Therefore, we conducted a search for bat lyssaviruses in Jilin province, close to where the first bat-associated human rabies case was recorded. We isolated a bat lyssavirus, identified as an Irkut virus isolate with high pathogenicity in experimental mice. Our findings suggest that public warnings and medical education regarding bat bites in China should be increased, and that surveillance should be extended to provide a better understanding of Irkut virus ecology and its significance for public health.
PMCID: PMC3591329  PMID: 23505588
17.  Antibodies to Henipavirus or Henipa-Like Viruses in Domestic Pigs in Ghana, West Africa 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25256.
Henipaviruses, Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV), have Pteropid bats as their known natural reservoirs. Antibodies against henipaviruses have been found in Eidolon helvum, an old world fruit bat species, and henipavirus-like nucleic acid has been detected in faecal samples from E. helvum in Ghana. The initial outbreak of NiV in Malaysia led to over 265 human encephalitis cases, including 105 deaths, with infected pigs acting as amplifier hosts for NiV during the outbreak. We detected non-neutralizing antibodies against viruses of the genus Henipavirus in approximately 5% of pig sera (N = 97) tested in Ghana, but not in a small sample of other domestic species sampled under a E. helvum roost. Although we did not detect neutralizing antibody, our results suggest prior exposure of the Ghana pig population to henipavirus(es). Because a wide diversity of henipavirus-like nucleic acid sequences have been found in Ghanaian E. helvum, we hypothesise that these pigs might have been infected by henipavirus(es) sufficiently divergent enough from HeVor NiV to produce cross-reactive, but not cross-neutralizing antibodies to HeV or NiV.
PMCID: PMC3178620  PMID: 21966471
18.  Classification of Bartonella Strains Associated with Straw-Colored Fruit Bats (Eidolon helvum) across Africa Using a Multi-locus Sequence Typing Platform 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(1):e0003478.
Bartonellae are facultative intracellular bacteria and are highly adapted to their mammalian host cell niches. Straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) are commonly infected with several bartonella strains. To elucidate the genetic diversity of these bartonella strains, we analyzed 79 bartonella isolates from straw-colored fruit bats in seven countries across Africa (Cameroon, Annobon island of Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda) using a multi-locus sequencing typing (MLST) approach based on nucleotide sequences of eight loci (ftsZ, gltA, nuoG, ribC, rpoB, ssrA, ITS, and 16S rRNA). The analysis of each locus but ribC demonstrated clustering of the isolates into six genogroups (E1 – E5 and Ew), while ribC was absent in the isolates belonging to the genogroup Ew. In general, grouping of all isolates by each locus was mutually supportive; however, nuoG, gltA, and rpoB showed some incongruity with other loci in several strains, suggesting a possibility of recombination events, which were confirmed by network analyses and recombination/mutation rate ratio (r/m) estimations. The MLST scheme revealed 45 unique sequence types (ST1 – 45) among the analyzed bartonella isolates. Phylogenetic analysis of concatenated sequences supported the discrimination of six phylogenetic lineages (E1 – E5 and Ew) corresponding to separate and unique Bartonella species. One of the defined lineages, Ew, consisted of only two STs (ST1 and ST2), and comprised more than one-quarter of the analyzed isolates, while other lineages contained higher numbers of STs with a smaller number of isolates belonging to each lineage. The low number of allelic polymorphisms of isolates belonging to Ew suggests a more recent origin for this species. Our findings suggest that at least six Bartonella species are associated with straw-colored fruit bats, and that distinct STs can be found across the distribution of this bat species, including in populations of bats which are genetically distinct.
Author Summary
Bats, with over 1000 recognized species, represent about 20% of all classified mammalian species worldwide. These mammals have a wide range of ecologies and life-history traits, and are now widely recognized as important reservoirs of many pathogens. Bartonella species have been found distributed in a wide range of mammalian species, including bats. About half of recognized Bartonella species, including one bat-associated species, have been associated with human illness. Previous studies have shown that Bartonella species are extremely diverse, with or without evident specificity to their mammalian hosts. Possessing many unique aspects, bartonellae can serve as a useful biological marker to study how microorganisms have evolved and diversified along with their animal hosts in evolutionary history. In this study, we applied multi-locus sequence typing, or MLST, to study the genetic differences of straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum)-associated Bartonella species. Our studies suggest Bartonella species have both exchanged genetic materials among species through recombination events and lost genes that are perhaps superfluous to their life cycles, which includes an intracellular stage in mammals.
PMCID: PMC4311972  PMID: 25635826
19.  Bat Airway Epithelial Cells: A Novel Tool for the Study of Zoonotic Viruses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e84679.
Bats have been increasingly recognized as reservoir of important zoonotic viruses. However, until now many attempts to isolate bat-borne viruses in cell culture have been unsuccessful. Further, experimental studies on reservoir host species have been limited by the difficulty of rearing these species. The epithelium of the respiratory tract plays a central role during airborne transmission, as it is the first tissue encountered by viral particles. Although several cell lines from bats were established recently, no well-characterized, selectively cultured airway epithelial cells were available so far. Here, primary cells and immortalized cell lines from bats of the two important suborders Yangochiroptera and Yinpterochiroptera, Carollia perspicillata (Seba's short-tailed bat) and Eidolon helvum (Straw-colored fruit bat), were successfully cultured under standardized conditions from both fresh and frozen organ specimens by cell outgrowth of organ explants and by the use of serum-free primary cell culture medium. Cells were immortalized to generate permanent cell lines. Cells were characterized for their epithelial properties such as expression of cytokeratin and tight junctions proteins and permissiveness for viral infection with Rift-Valley fever virus and vesicular stomatitis virus Indiana. These cells can serve as suitable models for the study of bat-borne viruses and complement cell culture models for virus infection in human airway epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3890267  PMID: 24454736
20.  Characterization of Staphylococcus aureus isolates from faecal samples of the Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum) in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Nigeria 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:279.
Bats (Chiroptera) are one of the most diverse groups of mammals which carry out important ecological and agricultural functions that are beneficial to humans. However, they are increasingly recognized as natural vectors for a number of zoonotic pathogens and favourable hosts for zoonotic infections. Large populations of the Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat (Eidolon helvum) colonize the main campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, but the public health implications of faecal contamination and pollution by these flying mammals is unknown. This study characterized S. aureus obtained from faecal samples of these migratory mammals with a view to determining the clonal types of the isolates, and to investigate the possibility of these flying animals as potential reservoir for zoonotic S. aureus infections.
One hundred and seven (107) S. aureus isolates were recovered from 560 faecal samples in eleven roosting sites from January 2008 to February 2010. A large proportion of the isolates were susceptible to antibiotics, and molecular characterization of 70 isolates showed that 65 (92.9%) were assigned in coagulase type VI, while accessory gene typing classified 69 isolates into the following: type I (12; 17.1%), type II (3; 4.3%), type III (1; 1.4%) and type IV (53; 75.7%). On the whole, the isolates were grouped in five (A-E) main genotypes. Of the ten representative isolates selected for multilocus sequence typing (MLST), nine isolates were assigned with new sequence types: ST1725, ST1726, ST1727, ST2463-ST2467 and ST2470. Phylogenetic analysis provided evidence that S. aureus isolates in group C were closely related with ST1822 and associated clones identified in African monkeys, and group D isolates with ST75, ST883 and ST1223. The two groups exhibited remarkable genetic diversity compared to the major S. aureus clade.
Antibiotic resistance in faecal S. aureus isolates of E. helvum is low and multiple unique S. aureus lineages co-existed with E. helvum. The Straw-Coloured Fruit Bat in Ile-Ife, Nigeria is colonized predominantly by ST1725, ST1726, ST2463 and ST2470 with distinct genotypic characteristics that are rarely found in humans. This study has demonstrated on the possible existence of a reservoir of indigenous and anciently-divergent S. aureus clones among mammals in Africa.
PMCID: PMC3554579  PMID: 23181939
Staphylococcus aureus; Eidolon helvum; ST1725; ST1726; ST2463; ST2470; Anciently-diverged S. aureus
21.  Enhanced Passive Bat Rabies Surveillance in Indigenous Bat Species from Germany - A Retrospective Study 
In Germany, rabies in bats is a notifiable zoonotic disease, which is caused by European bat lyssaviruses type 1 and 2 (EBLV-1 and 2), and the recently discovered new lyssavirus species Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV). As the understanding of bat rabies in insectivorous bat species is limited, in addition to routine bat rabies diagnosis, an enhanced passive surveillance study, i.e. the retrospective investigation of dead bats that had not been tested for rabies, was initiated in 1998 to study the distribution, abundance and epidemiology of lyssavirus infections in bats from Germany. A total number of 5478 individuals representing 21 bat species within two families were included in this study. The Noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) and the Common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) represented the most specimens submitted. Of all investigated bats, 1.17% tested positive for lyssaviruses using the fluorescent antibody test (FAT). The vast majority of positive cases was identified as EBLV-1, predominately associated with the Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus). However, rabies cases in other species, i.e. Nathusius' pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), P. pipistrellus and Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus) were also characterized as EBLV-1. In contrast, EBLV-2 was isolated from three Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii). These three cases contribute significantly to the understanding of EBLV-2 infections in Germany as only one case had been reported prior to this study. This enhanced passive surveillance indicated that besides known reservoir species, further bat species are affected by lyssavirus infections. Given the increasing diversity of lyssaviruses and bats as reservoir host species worldwide, lyssavirus positive specimens, i.e. both bat and virus need to be confirmed by molecular techniques.
Author Summary
According to the World Health Organization rabies is considered both a neglected zoonotic and a tropical disease. The causative agents are lyssaviruses which have their primary reservoir in bats. Although bat rabies is notifiable in Germany, the number of submitted bats during routine surveillance is rarely representative of the natural bat population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to include dead bats from various sources for enhanced bat rabies surveillance. The results show that a considerable number of additional bat rabies cases can be detected, thus improving the knowledge on the frequency, geographical distribution and reservoir-association of bat lyssavirus infections in Germany. The overall proportion of positives was lower than during routine surveillance in Germany. While the majority of cases were found in the Serotine bat and characterized as European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1), three of the four EBLV-2 infections detected in Germany were found in Myotis daubentonii during this study.
PMCID: PMC4006713  PMID: 24784117
22.  Molecular Epidemiology of Paramyxoviruses in Frugivorous Eidolon helvum Bats in Zambia 
In this study, we describe the detection of novel paramyxoviruses from the Eidolon helvum species of fruit bats. We extracted RNA from 312 spleen samples from bats captured in Zambia over a period of 4 years (2008–2011). Semi-nested RT-PCR detected a total of 25 (8%) positive samples for paramyxoviruses which were then directly sequenced and analyzed using phylogenetic analysis. Among the positive samples, seven novel paramyxoviruses were detected. Five viruses were closely related to the genus Henipavirus, while two viruses were related to the unclassified Bat paramyxoviruses from Ghana and Congo Brazzaville. Our study identified novel Henipavirus-related and unrelated viruses using RT-PCR in fruit bats from Kansaka National Park and indicated the presence of similar Bat paramyxoviruses originating from wide geographic areas, suggesting the ability of bats to harbor and transmit viruses. The presence of these viruses in fruit bats might pose a public health risk.
PMCID: PMC4064153  PMID: 24389743
bat viruses; epidemiology; paramyxoviruses; virus; Zambia
23.  Temporal Dynamics of European Bat Lyssavirus Type 1 and Survival of Myotis myotis Bats in Natural Colonies 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(6):e566.
Many emerging RNA viruses of public health concern have recently been detected in bats. However, the dynamics of these viruses in natural bat colonies is presently unknown. Consequently, prediction of the spread of these viruses and the establishment of appropriate control measures are hindered by a lack of information. To this aim, we collected epidemiological, virological and ecological data during a twelve-year longitudinal study in two colonies of insectivorous bats (Myotis myotis) located in Spain and infected by the most common bat lyssavirus found in Europe, the European bat lyssavirus subtype 1 (EBLV-1). This active survey demonstrates that cyclic lyssavirus infections occurred with periodic oscillations in the number of susceptible, immune and infected bats. Persistence of immunity for more than one year was detected in some individuals. These data were further used to feed models to analyze the temporal dynamics of EBLV-1 and the survival rate of bats. According to these models, the infection is characterized by a predicted low basic reproductive rate (R0 = 1.706) and a short infectious period (D = 5.1 days). In contrast to observations in most non-flying animals infected with rabies, the survival model shows no variation in mortality after EBLV-1 infection of M. myotis. These findings have considerable public health implications in terms of management of colonies where lyssavirus-positive bats have been recorded and confirm the potential risk of rabies transmission to humans. A greater understanding of the dynamics of lyssavirus in bat colonies also provides a model to study how bats contribute to the maintenance and transmission of other viruses of public health concern.
PMCID: PMC1892799  PMID: 17593965
24.  Cross sectional survey of human-bat interaction in Australia: public health implications 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:58.
Flying foxes (megachiroptera) and insectivorous microbats (microchiroptera) are the known reservoirs for a range of recently emerged, highly pathogenic viruses. In Australia there is public health concern relating to bats’ role as reservoirs of Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV), which has clinical features identical to classical rabies. Three deaths from ABLV have occurred in Australia. A survey was conducted to determine the frequency of bat exposures amongst adults in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales; explore reasons for handling bats; examine reported practices upon encountering injured or trapped bats or experiencing bat bites or scratches; and investigate knowledge of bat handling warnings.
A representative sample of 821 New South Wales adults aged 16 years and older were interviewed during May and June 2011, using a computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) method. Frequencies, proportions and statistical differences in proportion were performed. Using an α-value of 0.05 and power of 80%, it was calculated that a sample size of 800 was required to provide statistical significance of +/− 5% for dichotomous variables.
One-hundred-and-twenty-seven (15.5%) respondents indicated that they had previously handled a bat, being 22% (48/218) rural and 13% (78/597) urban respondents (χ2 = 9.8, p = 0.0018). Twenty one percent of males (63/304) had handled bats compared with 12% (64/517) of females (χ2 = 10.2, p = 0.0014). Overall, 42.0% (n = 345) of respondents reported having seen or heard a warning about handling bats. If faced with an injured or trapped bat, 25% (206/821) indicated that they would handle the bat, with 17% (36/206) saying that they would use their bare hands. For minor scratches, 14% (117/821) indicated that they would ignore the injury while four respondents would ignore major scratches or bites.
Previous human-bat interactions were relatively common. Bat exposures most frequently occurred with sick or injured bats, which have the highest risk of ABLV. On encountering an injured or sick bat, potentially high risk practices were commonly reported, particularly among rural males. It is important to understand why people still handle bats despite public health warnings to inform future communication strategies.
PMCID: PMC3908316  PMID: 24443960
25.  Evidence of Henipavirus Infection in West African Fruit Bats 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2739.
Henipaviruses are emerging RNA viruses of fruit bat origin that can cause fatal encephalitis in man. Ghanaian fruit bats (megachiroptera) were tested for antibodies to henipaviruses. Using a Luminex multiplexed microsphere assay, antibodies were detected in sera of Eidolon helvum to both Nipah (39%, 95% confidence interval: 27–51%) and Hendra (22%, 95% CI: 11–33%) viruses. Virus neutralization tests further confirmed seropositivity for 30% (7/23) of Luminex positive serum samples. Our results indicate that henipavirus is present within West Africa.
PMCID: PMC2453319  PMID: 18648649

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