Zoonoses can constitute a threat for public health that can have a global importance, as seen with the current COVID-19 pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV2). Bats have been recognized as an important reservoir of zoonotic coronaviruses (CoVs). In West Africa, where there is a high diversity of bat species, little is known on the circulation of CoVs in these hosts, especially at the interface with human populations. In this study, in Guinea, we tested a total of 319 bats belonging to 14 genera and six families of insectivorous and frugivorous bats across the country, for the presence of coronaviruses. We found CoVs in 35 (11%) of the tested bats-in three insectivorous bat species and five fruit bat species that were mostly captured close to human habitat. Positivity rates varied from 5.7% to 100%, depending on bat species. A wide diversity of alpha and beta coronaviruses was found across the country, including three sequences belonging to SarbeCoVs and MerbeCoVs subgenera known to harbor highly pathogenic human coronaviruses. Our findings suggest that CoVs are widely spread in West Africa and their circulation should be assessed to evaluate the risk of exposure of potential zoonotic CoVs to humans.
Keywords: Africa; Guinea; bat; coronavirus; virus diversity.