Coronaviruses are positive-stranded RNA viruses that infect a variety of hosts, resulting in a range of symptoms from gastrointestinal illness to respiratory distress. Bats are reservoirs for a high diversity of coronaviruses, and focused surveillance detected several strains genetically similar to MERS-coronavirus, SARS-coronavirus, and the human coronaviruses 229E and NL63. The bat fauna of central Asia, which link China to eastern Europe, are relatively less studied than other regions of the world. Kazakhstan is the world's ninth largest country; however, little is understood about the prevalence and diversity of bat-borne viruses. In this study, bat guano was collected from bat caves in three different sites of southern Kazakhstan that tested positive for coronaviruses. Our phylogenetic reconstruction indicates these are novel bat coronaviruses that belong to the genus Alphacoronavirus. In addition, two distinct lineages of Kazakhstan bat coronaviruses were detected. Both lineages are closely related to bat coronaviruses from China, France, Spain, and South Africa, suggesting that co-circulation of coronaviruses is common in multiple bat species with overlapping geographical distributions. Our study highlights the need for collaborative efforts in understudied countries to increase integrated surveillance capabilities toward better monitoring and detection of infectious diseases.
Keywords: Hypsugo savii; Kazakhstan; Myotis blythii; coronavirus; phylogeny; virus discovery.