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Bat origin of human coronaviruses

Ben Hu, Xingyi Ge, Lin-Fa Wang, Zhengli Shi
Virology Journal 2015 December 22, 12: 221
26689940
Bats have been recognized as the natural reservoirs of a large variety of viruses. Special attention has been paid to bat coronaviruses as the two emerging coronaviruses which have caused unexpected human disease outbreaks in the 21st century, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), are suggested to be originated from bats. Various species of horseshoe bats in China have been found to harbor genetically diverse SARS-like coronaviruses. Some strains are highly similar to SARS-CoV even in the spike protein and are able to use the same receptor as SARS-CoV for cell entry. On the other hand, diverse coronaviruses phylogenetically related to MERS-CoV have been discovered worldwide in a wide range of bat species, some of which can be classified to the same coronavirus species as MERS-CoV. Coronaviruses genetically related to human coronavirus 229E and NL63 have been detected in bats as well. Moreover, intermediate hosts are believed to play an important role in the transmission and emergence of these coronaviruses from bats to humans. Understanding the bat origin of human coronaviruses is helpful for the prediction and prevention of another pandemic emergence in the future.

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