Genomic characterization and infectivity of a novel SARS-like coronavirus in Chinese bats

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2018 Sep 12;7(1):154. doi: 10.1038/s41426-018-0155-5.


SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV), the causative agent of the large SARS outbreak in 2003, originated in bats. Many SARS-like coronaviruses (SL-CoVs) have been detected in bats, particularly those that reside in China, Europe, and Africa. To further understand the evolutionary relationship between SARS-CoV and its reservoirs, 334 bats were collected from Zhoushan city, Zhejiang province, China, between 2015 and 2017. PCR amplification of the conserved coronaviral protein RdRp detected coronaviruses in 26.65% of bats belonging to this region, and this number was influenced by seasonal changes. Full genomic analyses of the two new SL-CoVs from Zhoushan (ZXC21 and ZC45) showed that their genomes were 29,732 nucleotides (nt) and 29,802 nt in length, respectively, with 13 open reading frames (ORFs). These results revealed 81% shared nucleotide identity with human/civet SARS CoVs, which was more distant than that observed previously for bat SL-CoVs in China. Importantly, using pathogenic tests, we found that the virus can reproduce and cause disease in suckling rats, and further studies showed that the virus-like particles can be observed in the brains of suckling rats by electron microscopy. Thus, this study increased our understanding of the genetic diversity of the SL-CoVs carried by bats and also provided a new perspective to study the possibility of cross-species transmission of SL-CoVs using suckling rats as an animal model.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • China
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Coronavirus / classification
  • Coronavirus / genetics*
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification
  • Coronavirus / pathogenicity*
  • Female
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Male
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Phylogeny
  • Rats
  • Viral Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • Virulence


  • Viral Proteins