Virome characterization of game animals in China reveals a spectrum of emerging pathogens

Cell. 2022 Mar 31;185(7):1117-1129.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.02.014. Epub 2022 Feb 16.


Game animals are wildlife species traded and consumed as food and are potential reservoirs for SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. We performed a meta-transcriptomic analysis of 1,941 game animals, representing 18 species and five mammalian orders, sampled across China. From this, we identified 102 mammalian-infecting viruses, with 65 described for the first time. Twenty-one viruses were considered as potentially high risk to humans and domestic animals. Civets (Paguma larvata) carried the highest number of potentially high-risk viruses. We inferred the transmission of bat-associated coronavirus from bats to civets, as well as cross-species jumps of coronaviruses from bats to hedgehogs, from birds to porcupines, and from dogs to raccoon dogs. Of note, we identified avian Influenza A virus H9N2 in civets and Asian badgers, with the latter displaying respiratory symptoms, as well as cases of likely human-to-wildlife virus transmission. These data highlight the importance of game animals as potential drivers of disease emergence.

Keywords: coronavirus; disease emergence; emerging pathogens; evolution; game animals; host switch; virome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / virology*
  • China
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / virology*
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Mammals / virology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Virome*
  • Zoonoses