Discovering How a New Bat Virus Affects Mice

Jenn Hoskins
8th March, 2024

Discovering How a New Bat Virus Affects Mice

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers in Seoul discovered a new virus strain, BatMRV2/SNU1/Korea/2021, in a microbat that can infect multiple species
  • The virus can cause weight loss, respiratory distress, and lung damage when inhaled by mice
  • It has the potential to affect the nervous system and triggers a delayed immune response
Mammalian orthoreoviruses (MRVs) are not a household name, but they are viruses that have a significant impact on health, capable of infecting a wide array of mammalian hosts, including humans, livestock, and wildlife. A recent study conducted by researchers at Seoul National University has shed light on a new strain of this virus, expanding our understanding of its potential to jump between species and cause disease[1]. MRVs have been on the radar of the scientific community for a while, as they are known to be capable of causing respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, and in some cases, severe encephalitis—an inflammation of the brain. The ability of these viruses to infect different species raises concerns about their potential to jump from animals to humans, a process known as zoonotic spillover, which has been a focal point of research due to the global impact of such events, as seen in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The Seoul National University team isolated a novel MRV from the intestine of a microbat, specifically Myotis aurascens. Through phylogenetic analysis, which is a way of examining the evolutionary relationships between organisms, they determined that this virus was of serotype 2 and shared genetic segments with MRVs found in diverse hosts. This is particularly noteworthy as it aligns with earlier findings that showed the existence of different MRV genotypes circulating in US bats, which could potentially infect humans and other species[2]. Similarly, a reassortant MRV found in China highlighted the intricate network of MRV sharing genetic material across species[3]. The novel MRV, named BatMRV2/SNU1/Korea/2021, was found to have a broad host range, capable of infecting cell lines from humans, swine, and non-human primates. This wide host range is indicative of the virus's potential to cross species barriers and emphasizes the need for surveillance in both wildlife and domestic animals. The study also found that certain media components could enhance virus propagation, though with varying success across different cell lines. In terms of pathology, when mice were infected with this strain intranasally, they exhibited weight loss and respiratory distress, and the virus was found in multiple organs, including the lungs, causing damage. This suggests that the virus could potentially cause respiratory syndrome in humans and other animals. The virus also showed neurotropic characteristics, meaning it has an affinity for the nervous system, as it could infect a neuroblastoma cell line and replicate in the brains of mice. A delayed immune response was observed, with high levels of cytokines and chemokines—molecules involved in inflammation and immune response—detected at 14 days post-infection. This study builds upon the existing body of research, including methods for studying the spread and evolution of pathogens like MRVs. For instance, earlier work on recombination in coronaviruses highlighted the complexities in tracking the evolution of viruses that can exchange genetic material[4]. While MRVs and coronaviruses are different, the principles of studying their genetic changes are relevant to understanding how viruses like the novel BatMRV2/SNU1/Korea/2021 emerge and adapt. The findings from Seoul National University contribute significantly to our knowledge of MRVs. They highlight the risk of transmission from wildlife to other species, including humans, and underscore the importance of ongoing surveillance and research into these viruses. By understanding the genetic diversity and pathogenicity of MRVs, we can better prepare for and potentially prevent future outbreaks of diseases caused by these adaptable and sometimes deadly viruses.

BiotechGeneticsAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Genetic characterization and pathogenicity in a mouse model of newly isolated bat-originated mammalian orthoreovirus in South Korea.

Published 5th March, 2024

Related Studies

2) Isolation and characterization of mammalian orthoreovirus from bats in the United States.

3) Detection and Characterization of a Reassortant Mammalian Orthoreovirus Isolated from Bats in Xinjiang, China.

4) A Bayesian approach to infer recombination patterns in coronaviruses.

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