Hong Kong Med J 2012;18(Suppl 2):S25-6
Wild animal surveillance for coronavirus HKU1 and potential variants of other coronaviruses
KY Yuen, SKP Lau, PCY Woo
Department of Microbiology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
1. Although CoV-HKU1 was not identified in any of the studied animals, a coronavirus closely related to SARS-CoV (bat-SARS-CoV) was identified in 23 (19%) of 118 wild Chinese horseshoe bats by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
2. Complete genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis showed that bat-SARS-CoV formed a distinct cluster with SARS-CoV as group 2b coronaviruses, distantly related to known group 2 coronaviruses.
3. Most differences between the bat-SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV genomes were observed in the spike gene. The presence of a 29-bp insertion in ORF 8 of bat-SARS-CoV genome, not in most human SARS-CoV genomes, suggests that it has a common ancestor with civet SARS-CoV.
4. Antibody against recombinant bat-SARS-CoV nucleocapsid protein was detected in 84% of Chinese horseshoe bats using an enzyme immunoassay. Neutralising antibody to human SARS-CoV was also detected in those with lower viral loads.
5. This study also revealed a previously unknown diversity of coronaviruses in bats, which are important natural reservoir for coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-like viruses.