Evolutionary relationships between bat coronaviruses and their hosts

Emerg Infect Dis. 2007 Oct;13(10):1526-32. doi: 10.3201/eid1310.070448.


Recent studies have suggested that bats are the natural reservoir of a range of coronaviruses (CoVs), and that rhinolophid bats harbor viruses closely related to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) CoV, which caused an outbreak of respiratory illness in humans during 2002-2003. We examined the evolutionary relationships between bat CoVs and their hosts by using sequence data of the virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase gene and the bat cytochrome b gene. Phylogenetic analyses showed multiple incongruent associations between the phylogenies of rhinolophid bats and their CoVs, which suggested that host shifts have occurred in the recent evolutionary history of this group. These shifts may be due to either virus biologic traits or host behavioral traits. This finding has implications for the emergence of SARS and for the potential future emergence of SARS-CoVs or related viruses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier State / virology*
  • China
  • Chiroptera / genetics
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Coronavirus / classification
  • Coronavirus / genetics*
  • Cytochromes b / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Population Surveillance
  • RNA, Viral / genetics*
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase / genetics


  • RNA, Viral
  • Cytochromes b
  • RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase