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Coronaviruses and Australian bats: a review in the midst of a pandemic

Peel, A.J., Field, H.E., Aravena, M.R., Edson, D., McCallum, H., Plowright, R.K. and Prada, D. (2020) Coronaviruses and Australian bats: a review in the midst of a pandemic. Australian Journal of Zoology . Online Early.

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Australia’s 81 bat species play vital ecological and economic roles via suppression of insect pests and maintenance of native forests through pollination and seed dispersal. Bats also host a wide diversity of coronaviruses globally, including several viral species that are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 and other emergent human respiratory coronaviruses. Although there are hundreds of studies of bat coronaviruses globally, there are only three studies of bat coronaviruses in Australian bat species, and no systematic studies of drivers of shedding. These limited studies have identified two betacoronaviruses and seven alphacoronaviruses, but less than half of Australian species are included in these studies and further research is therefore needed. There is no current evidence of spillover of coronaviruses from bats to humans in Australia, either directly or indirectly via intermediate hosts. The limited available data are inadequate to determine whether this lack of evidence indicates that spillover does not occur or occurs but is undetected. Conversely, multiple international agencies have flagged the potential transmission of human coronaviruses (including SARS CoV-2) from humans to bats, and the consequent threat to bat conservation and human health. Australia has a long history of bat research across a broad range of ecological and associated disciplines, as well as expertise in viral spillover from bats. This strong foundation is an ideal platform for developing integrative approaches to understanding bat health and sustainable protection of human health.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Veterinary Medicine
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © CSIRO 2020
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