4 December 2021



Coronavirus in Bats: Evolutionary Relationships.

2 min read

A biologist holding a bat at an Emerging Infectious Diseases Training Event in Panama.

A bat-borne virus is any virus whose primary reservoir is any species of bat.
The viruses include coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), hantaviruses, lyssaviruses such as rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus,henipaviruses such as nipah virus and Hendra virus, Lassa virus , Ebola virus , and Marburg virus . Several bat-borne viruses are considered important emerging viruses.

Horseshoe bats are among the most likely natural reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2


  • In 2019, a food market that sold live wild games (a “wet market”) in Wuhan, China was linked to the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Through genetic analyses, scientists initially found the virus resembles those typically found in bats.
  • Subsequent genetics studies suggest the virus may have been transmitted to people from pangolins, since the sequences of coronavirus from these animals have high similarity with SARS-CoV-2, and these species were sold in the market.
  • However, there are also concerns from the scientific community about the validity of the genetics technique used (codon usage bias).
Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virions with visible coronae
Illustration of a SARS-CoV-2 virion


  • Hantaviruses, usually found in rodents and shrews, were discovered in two species of bats. The Mouyassue virus (MOUV) was isolated from banana pipistrelle bats captured near Mouyassué village in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa .
  • The Magboi virus was isolated from hairy slit-faced bats found near the Magboi River in Sierra Leone in 2011.
Transmission electron micrograph of Sin Nombre orthohantavirus or simply hantavirus

Research into the natural reservoir of the virus strain that caused the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak has resulted within the discovery of the many SARS-like bat coronaviruses, most originating within the Rhinolophus genus of horseshoe bats.

Digitally colourised scanning electron micrographs of SARS-CoV-2 virions (yellow) emerging from human cells cultured in a laboratory

Phylogenetic analysis indicates that samples taken from Rhinolophus sinicus show a resemblance of 80% to SARS-CoV-2.

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