Detection of novel coronaviruses in bats in Myanmar

PLoS One. 2020 Apr 9;15(4):e0230802. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230802. eCollection 2020.


The recent emergence of bat-borne zoonotic viruses warrants vigilant surveillance in their natural hosts. Of particular concern is the family of coronaviruses, which includes the causative agents of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and most recently, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), an epidemic of acute respiratory illness originating from Wuhan, China in December 2019. Viral detection, discovery, and surveillance activities were undertaken in Myanmar to identify viruses in animals at high risk contact interfaces with people. Free-ranging bats were captured, and rectal and oral swabs and guano samples collected for coronaviral screening using broadly reactive consensus conventional polymerase chain reaction. Sequences from positives were compared to known coronaviruses. Three novel alphacoronaviruses, three novel betacoronaviruses, and one known alphacoronavirus previously identified in other southeast Asian countries were detected for the first time in bats in Myanmar. Ongoing land use change remains a prominent driver of zoonotic disease emergence in Myanmar, bringing humans into ever closer contact with wildlife, and justifying continued surveillance and vigilance at broad scales.

MeSH terms

  • Anal Canal / virology
  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Coronavirus / classification*
  • Coronavirus / genetics
  • Coronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Feces / virology
  • Mouth / virology
  • Myanmar
  • Population Surveillance

Grant support

This study was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project (cooperative agreement number AID-OAA-A-14-00102 and GHN-A-OO-09-00010-00 to JM). The contents are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. The sponsor did not play any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Support for the preparation of this manuscript was provided by the Morris Animal Foundation and Dennis and Connie Keller through a training partnership, as well as Judy and John W. McCarter, Jr., and James and Jamie Coss. This content has not been reviewed or endorsed by the Morris Animal Foundation, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation, its officers, directors, affiliates, or agents.