Seasonal fluctuations of astrovirus, but not coronavirus shedding in bats inhabiting human-modified tropical forests

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Citation:
Seltmann, A., Corman, V. M., Rasche, A., Drosten, C., Czirják, G. Á., Bernard, H., Struebig, M.J. & Voigt, C. C. (2017). Seasonal Fluctuations of Astrovirus, But Not Coronavirus Shedding in Bats Inhabiting Human-Modified Tropical Forests. EcoHealth, 1-13, doi: 10.1007/s10393-017-1245-x


Most emerging infectious diseases seem to result from an increased contact zone between wildlife and humans. We tested in a paleotropical forest with ongoing anthropogenic landscape modification, whether habitat disturbance is indeed associated with the occurrence of astro- and coronaviruses in eight bat species. We could not find evidence for this, but the detection rate of astroviruses was higher during the rainy compared to the dry season and in individuals with a poor body condition. The identification of these additional risk factors for increased viral shedding is important to prevent viral spillovers from bats to other animals, including humans.

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are considered a major threat to global health. Most EIDs appear to
result from increased contact between wildlife and humans, especially when humans encroach into formerly
pristine habitats. Habitat deterioration may also negatively affect the physiology and health of wildlife species,
which may eventually lead to a higher susceptibility to infectious agents and/or increased shedding of the pa-
thogens causing EIDs. Bats are known to host viruses closely related to important EIDs. Here, we tested in a
paleotropical forest with ongoing logging and fragmentation, whether habitat disturbance influences the
occurrence of astro- and coronaviruses in eight bat species. In contrast to our hypothesis, anthropogenic habitat
disturbance was not associated with corona- and astrovirus detection rates in fecal samples. However, we found
that bats infected with either astro- or coronaviruses were likely to be coinfected with the respective other virus.
Additionally, we identified two more risk factors influencing astrovirus shedding. First, the detection rate of
astroviruses was higher at the beginning of the rainy compared to the dry season. Second, there was a trend that
individuals with a poor body condition had a higher probability of shedding astroviruses in their feces. The
identification of risk factors for increased viral shedding that may potentially result in increased interspecies
transmission is important to prevent viral spillovers from bats to other animals, including humans.