Coronavirus found in Indian bats, scrutiny crucial for outbreak alerts

New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) The detection of potentially pathogenic coronavirus in Indian bats stresses the need for enhancing screening for novel viruses in them, according to a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

This study was a step towards understanding the coronavirus circulation in Indian bats. “One Health approach with collaborative activities by the animal health and human health sectors in these surveillance activities shall be of use to public health,” the study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research said.

“This would help in the development of diagnostic assays for novel viruses with outbreak potential and be useful in disease interventions. Proactive surveillance remains crucial for identifying the emerging novel viruses with epidemic potential and measures for risk mitigation,” said the study authored by Pragya D Yadav as the first author.

A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has found the presence of a bat coronavirus in bat species from Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.

There have been studies and theories that the coronavirus pandemic which spread from Wuhan in China had originated from bats.

The ICMR study for the first time has found the presence of a different kind of coronavirus, bat coronavirus (BtCoV) in two bat species from these four states.

According to the study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, there is no evidence to suggest that the bat coronaviruses can cause disease in humans.

Bats from the Rousettus and Pteropus species from the four states were found positive. These bat coronaviruses are not related to the SARS-CoV2 which is causing the Covid 19 pandemic.

The Pteropus bat species were earlier found positive for Nipah virus in 2018 and 2019 in Kerala.

“Bats are considered to be the natural reservoir for many viruses, of which some are potential human pathogens. In India, an association of Pteropus medius bats with the Nipah virus was reported in the past. It is suspected that the recently emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) also has its association with bats,” the objective of the study titled ‘Detection of coronaviruses in Pteropus and Rousettus species of bats from different states of India' said.

In conclusion, the study showed detection of pathogenic CoVs in two species of Indian bats. Continuous active surveillance is required to identify the emerging novel viruses with epidemic potential.

“There is a need of proactive surveillance of zoonotic infections in bats. Detection and identifications of such aetiological agents will provide leads for the development of diagnostic along with preparedness and readiness to deal with such emergent viruses thereby quickly containing them,” the study said.

The detection and identification of such viruses from bats also recommends cross-sectional antibody surveys (human and domestic animals) in localities where the viruses have been detected. Similarly, if epidemiological situation demands, evidence-based surveillance should also be conducted. There is a need of developing strong mechanisms for working jointly with various stakeholders such as wildlife, poultry, animal husbandry and human health departments.

In the present scenario of changing demography and ecological manipulations, it is challenging to have checks on the encounters of bats with other animals and humans. Therefore, active and continuous surveillance remains crucial for outbreak alerts for bat-associated viral agents with epidemic potential, which would be helpful in timely interventions, the study said.

Although CoVs in the subfamily Coronavirinae do not usually produce clinical symptoms in their natural hosts (bats), accidental transmission of these viruses to humans and other animals may result in respiratory, enteric, hepatic or neurologic diseases of variable severity. It is still not understood as to why only certain CoVs can infect people, the study said.



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