Coronavirus and paramyxovirus in bats from Northwest Italy

Francesca Rizzo, Kathryn M. Edenborough, Roberto Toffoli, Paola Culasso, Simona Zoppi, Alessandro Dondo, Serena Robetto, Sergio Rosati, Angelika Lander, Andreas Kurth, Riccardo Orusa, Luigi Bertolotti, Maria Lucia Mandola

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Background: Bat-borne virus surveillance is necessary for determining inter-species transmission risks and is important due to the wide-range of bat species which may harbour potential pathogens. This study aimed to monitor coronaviruses (CoVs) and paramyxoviruses (PMVs) in bats roosting in northwest Italian regions. Our investigation was focused on CoVs and PMVs due to their proven ability to switch host and their zoonotic potential. Here we provide the phylogenetic characterization of the highly conserved polymerase gene fragments. Results: Family-wide PCR screenings were used to test 302 bats belonging to 19 different bat species. Thirty-eight animals from 12 locations were confirmed as PCR positive, with an overall detection rate of 12.6% [95% CI: 9.3-16.8]. CoV RNA was found in 36 bats belonging to eight species, while PMV RNA in three Pipistrellus spp. Phylogenetic characterization have been obtained for 15 alpha- CoVs, 5 beta-CoVs and three PMVs; moreover one P. pipistrellus resulted co-infected with both CoV and PMV. A divergent alpha-CoV clade from Myotis nattereri SpA is also described. The compact cluster of beta-CoVs from R. ferrumequinum roosts expands the current viral sequence database, specifically for this species in Europe. To our knowledge this is the first report of CoVs in Plecotus auritus and M. oxygnathus, and of PMVs in P. kuhlii. Conclusions: This study identified alpha and beta-CoVs in new bat species and in previously unsurveyed Italian regions. To our knowledge this represents the first and unique report of PMVs in Italy. The 23 new bat genetic sequences presented will expand the current molecular bat-borne virus databases. Considering the amount of novel bat-borne PMVs associated with the emergence of zoonotic infections in animals and humans in the last years, the definition of viral diversity within European bat species is needed. Performing surveillance studies within a specific geographic area can provide awareness of viral burden where bats roost in close proximity to spillover hosts, and form the basis for the appropriate control measures against potential threats for public health and optimal management of bats and their habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number396
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Veterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bat-borne viruses
  • Coronavirus
  • Emerging viruses
  • Genetic characterization
  • Paramyxovirus
  • Surveillance

Cite this

Rizzo, F., Edenborough, K. M., Toffoli, R., Culasso, P., Zoppi, S., Dondo, A., Robetto, S., Rosati, S., Lander, A., Kurth, A., Orusa, R., Bertolotti, L., & Mandola, M. L. (2017). Coronavirus and paramyxovirus in bats from Northwest Italy. BMC Veterinary Research, 13(1), [396].