Isolation and Characterization of Distinct Rotavirus A in Bat and Rodent Hosts

J Virol. 2023 Jan 31;97(1):e0145522. doi: 10.1128/jvi.01455-22. Epub 2023 Jan 12.


Rotavirus A (RVA) causes diarrheal disease in humans and various animals. Recent studies have identified bat and rodent RVAs with evidence of zoonotic transmission and genome reassortment. However, the virological properties of bat and rodent RVAs with currently identified genotypes still need to be better clarified. Here, we performed virus isolation-based screening for RVA in animal specimens and isolated RVAs (representative strains: 16-06 and MpR12) from Egyptian fruit bat and Natal multimammate mouse collected in Zambia. Whole-genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis revealed that the genotypes of bat RVA 16-06 were identical to that of RVA BATp39 strain from the Kenyan fruit bat, which has not yet been characterized. Moreover, all segments of rodent RVA MpR12 were highly divergent and assigned to novel genotypes, but RVA MpR12 was phylogenetically closer to bat RVAs than to other rodent RVAs, indicating a unique evolutionary history. We further investigated the virological properties of the isolated RVAs. In brief, we found that 16-06 entered cells by binding to sialic acids on the cell surface, while MpR12 entered in a sialic acid-independent manner. Experimental inoculation of suckling mice with 16-06 and MpR12 revealed that these RVAs are causative agents of diarrhea. Moreover, 16-06 and MpR12 demonstrated an ability to infect and replicate in a 3D-reconstructed primary human intestinal epithelium with comparable efficiency to the human RVA. Taken together, our results detail the unique genetic and virological features of bat and rodent RVAs and demonstrate the need for further investigation of their zoonotic potential. IMPORTANCE Recent advances in nucleotide sequence detection methods have enabled the detection of RVA genomes from various animals. These studies have discovered multiple divergent RVAs and have resulted in proposals for the genetic classification of novel genotypes. However, most of these RVAs have been identified via dsRNA viral genomes and not from infectious viruses, and their virological properties, such as cell/host tropisms, transmissibility, and pathogenicity, are unclear and remain to be clarified. Here, we successfully isolated RVAs with novel genome constellations from three bats and one rodent in Zambia. In addition to whole-genome sequencing, the isolated RVAs were characterized by glycan-binding affinity, pathogenicity in mice, and infectivity to the human gut using a 3D culture of primary intestinal epithelium. Our study reveals the first virological properties of bat and rodent RVAs with high genetic diversity and unique evolutional history and provides basic knowledge to begin estimating the potential of zoonotic transmission.

Keywords: Rotavirus A; bats; genetic diversity; glycan specificity; human intestinal epithelium model; rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera* / virology
  • Diarrhea / veterinary
  • Diarrhea / virology
  • Genome, Viral
  • Genotype
  • Kenya
  • Murinae* / virology
  • Phylogeny
  • Rotavirus Infections* / veterinary
  • Rotavirus* / genetics
  • Rotavirus* / isolation & purification