Scientists characterized a bat filovirus belonging to a new genus, Dianlovirus
Filoviruses, especially Ebola virus (EBOV) and Marburg virus (MARV), are notoriously pathogenic and capable of causing severe hemorrhagic fever diseases in humans with high lethality. The risk of future outbreaks of filoviruses is drawing increasing concern as other bat-borne filoviruses such as Lloviu virus and Bombali virus were globally discovered with great genetic diversity.
In a recent study published in Nature Microbiology, Prof. SHI Zhengli from Wuhan Institute of Virology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, collaborating with Prof. WANG Linfa from Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, reported the discovery of Měnglà virus (MLAV), a new filovirus named after the location where it was found.
Researchers found MLAV in Rousettus bats in Yunnan Province.
According to this study, the coding-complete genome of MLAV shares 32-54% nucleotide sequence identity with known filoviruses. Besides, the low genomic sequence identity, the divergent phylogenic relationship with previously reported filoviruses as well as its unique gene overlapping pattern suggest that MLAV most likely represents a new genus within the Filoviridae family, which is termed Dianlovirus by researchers.
The finding provided evidence that bats harbor a large number of genetically diverse filoviruses across a wide range of locations globally. Similar to other filoviruses, MLAV uses NPC1 as entry receptor. Using the chimeric minigenome system, the MLAV replication complex is functional and exchangeable with that from EBOV or MARV.
Bats play important roles in ecosystem through pollinating native and agricultural crops, reducing insect pests that damage crops, and consuming mosquitoes and other pests that feed on people and livestock.
"Killing or disturbing bats in their natural habitats could actually increase the risk of transmission of this new virus, and the best way for prevention of bat-borne diseases is to reduce exposure to the bats," Prof. SHI Zhengli said. "The purpose of this study is to discover new virus before it may spillover to humans, but not to incite panic of the public or a fear of bats, which is totally unnecessary."
Researchers from Yunnan Institute of Endemic Diseases Control and Prevention, Dali University, Guangdong Institute of Applied Biological Resources, and Wuhan University also participated in this study.