Filovirus-reactive antibodies in humans and bats in Northeast India imply zoonotic spillover

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2019 Oct 31;13(10):e0007733. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007733. eCollection 2019 Oct.


Bats are reservoirs for several zoonotic pathogens, including filoviruses. Recent work highlights the diversity of bat borne filoviruses in Asia. High risk activities at the bat-human interface pose the threat of zoonotic virus transmission. We present evidence for prior exposure of bat harvesters and two resident fruit bat species to filovirus surface glycoproteins by screening sera in a multiplexed serological assay. Antibodies reactive to two antigenically distinct filoviruses were detected in human sera and to three individual filoviruses in bats in remote Northeast India. Sera obtained from Eonycteris spelaea bats showed similar patterns of cross-reactivity as human samples, suggesting them as the species responsible for the spillover. In contrast, sera from Rousettus leschenaultii bats reacted to two different virus glycoproteins. Our results indicate circulation of several filoviruses in bats and the possibility for filovirus transmission from bats to humans.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Chiroptera / blood
  • Chiroptera / immunology*
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Disease Reservoirs / virology*
  • Ebolavirus / immunology
  • Filoviridae / classification
  • Filoviridae / immunology*
  • Filoviridae / isolation & purification
  • Filoviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Filoviridae Infections / immunology
  • Filoviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Filoviridae Infections / virology
  • Geographic Mapping
  • Glycoproteins / immunology
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins

Grant support

This project was funded by a United States Department of Defense, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Broad Agency Announcement grant for the project ‘Bat harvesting in India: Detection, characterization and mitigation of emerging infectious disease risk’ to IHM (HDTRA1-17-1-0028; PI: IHM); a Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India award (2012/21/06/BRNS) to UR; and funding from Biological Defense Research Directorate of the Naval Medical Research Center (HT9404-13-1-0021) to CCB; Component Project: Soluble Trimeric Filovirus Envelope Glycoproteins. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.