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Review
. 2019 Feb 20;11(2):174.
doi: 10.3390/v11020174.

Global Epidemiology of Bat Coronaviruses

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Free PMC article
Review

Global Epidemiology of Bat Coronaviruses

Antonio C P Wong et al. Viruses. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Bats are a unique group of mammals of the order Chiroptera. They are highly diversified and are the group of mammals with the second largest number of species. Such highly diversified cell types and receptors facilitate them to be potential hosts of a large variety of viruses. Bats are the only group of mammals capable of sustained flight, which enables them to disseminate the viruses they harbor and enhance the chance of interspecies transmission. This article aims at reviewing the various aspects of the global epidemiology of bat coronaviruses (CoVs). Before the SARS epidemic, bats were not known to be hosts for CoVs. In the last 15 years, bats have been found to be hosts of >30 CoVs with complete genomes sequenced, and many more if those without genome sequences are included. Among the four CoV genera, only alphaCoVs and betaCoVs have been found in bats. As a whole, both alphaCoVs and betaCoVs have been detected from bats in Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America and Australasia; but alphaCoVs seem to be more widespread than betaCoVs, and their detection rate is also higher. For betaCoVs, only those from subgenera Sarbecovirus, Merbecovirus, Nobecovirus and Hibecovirus have been detected in bats. Most notably, horseshoe bats are the reservoir of SARS-CoV, and several betaCoVs from subgenus Merbecovirus are closely related to MERS-CoV. In addition to the interactions among various bat species themselves, bat⁻animal and bat⁻human interactions, such as the presence of live bats in wildlife wet markets and restaurants in Southern China, are important for interspecies transmission of CoVs and may lead to devastating global outbreaks.

Keywords: Alphacoronavirus; Betacoronavirus; bat; coronavirus; epidemiology; global; host; interspecies transmission.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Maximum-likelihood phylogeny based on the complete genome sequences of 17 bat CoV species released by ICTV in 2018. A general time-reversible model of nucleotide substitution with estimated base frequencies, the proportion of invariant sites, and the γ distribution of rates across sites were used in the maximum-likelihood analysis. Bootstrap values are shown next to the branches. The scale bar indicates the number of nucleotide substitutions per site. Different colors represent different genera. Red, Alphacoronavirus; blue, Betacoronavirus. Updated subgenera clusters are labelled Setracovirus, Myotacovirus, Rhinacovirus, Colacovirus, Pedacovirus, Decacovirus, Minunacovirus, Nyctacovirus for the Alphacoronavirus and Nobecovirus, Hibecovirus, Sarbecovirus, Merbecovirus for the Betacoronavirus.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Geographical distribution of bat CoVs from the genera Alphacoronavirus and Betacoronavirus. Each colored region represents the country which reported the discovery of bat CoV. Red regions represent the countries which discovered bat Alphacoornavirus. Green regions represent the countries which discovered bat Betacoronavirus. Red-green striped regions represent the countries which discovered both bat Alphacoronavirus and Betacoronavirus.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Pie chart showing the relative detection rate of different bat CoVs from different subgenera of Alphacoronavirus and Betacoronavirus in Hong Kong from 2008 to 2017. The potential zoonotic transmission routes of each sub-genus of bat CoV detected are shown. Unclassified Alphacoronavirus represents those without complete genome sequences or genome characterization. Red color represents the sub-genera from Alphacoronavirus; Blue color represents the sub-genera from Betacoronavirus.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Geographical distribution of different horseshoe bats which were discovered to carry SARS-like BatCoV [114,115,116,117,118,119,120,121,122,123,124,125]. Each colored rectangular box represents the geographical distribution of a specific horseshoe bat species respectively: red box, Rhinolophus affinis; orange box, Rhinolophus blasii; yellow box, Rhinolophus euryale; green box, Rhinolophus ferrumequinum; turquoise box, Rhinolophus hildebrantii; indigo box, Rhinolophus hipposideros; purple box, Rhinolophus macrotis; brown box, Rhinolophus mehelyi; pink box, Rhinolophus pearsonii; gold box, Rhinolophus pusillus; blue-gray box, Rhinolophus rex; black box, Rhinolophus sinicus; lime box, Rhinolophus thomasi. Orange circle represents Yunnan Province; Red circle represents the origin of SARS & SADS outbreaks.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Geographical distribution of bat CoVs from the genus Betacoronavirus. Each colored region represents the country which reported the discovery of bat CoV from different sub-genera. Navy-blue regions represent the countries which discovered bat CoVs from Sarbecovirus. Yellow regions represent the countries which discovered bat CoVs from Merbecovirus. Purple regions represent the countries which discovered bat CoVs from Nobecovirus.

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