To help reveal the diversity and evolution of bat coronaviruses we collected 1067 bats from 21 species in China. A total of 73 coronaviruses (32 alphacoronaviruses and 41 betacoronaviruses) were identified in these bats, with an overall prevalence of 6.84%. All newly-identified betacoronaviruses were SARS-related Rhinolophus bat coronaviruses (SARSr-Rh-BatCoV). Importantly, with the exception of the S gene, the genome sequences of the SARSr-Rh-BatCoVs sampled in Guizhou province were closely related to SARS-related human coronavirus. Additionally, the newly-identified alphacoronaviruses exhibited high genetic diversity and some may represent novel species. Our phylogenetic analyses also provided insights into the transmission of these viruses among bat species, revealing a general clustering by geographic location rather than by bat species. Inter-species transmission among bats from the same genus was also commonplace in both the alphacoronaviruses and betacoronaviruses. Overall, these data suggest that high contact rates among specific bat species enable the acquisition and spread of coronaviruses.
Keywords: Bats; Coronavirus; Evolution; Phylogeny; SARS; Transmission.
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