CIDRAP: Peruvian bats found to harbor novel influenza virus

Discovery of a novel influenza virus, H18N11, in several species of Peruvian bats lends credence to New World bats being an important reservoir for a diversity of influenza viruses, says a study yesterday in PLoS Pathogens.

The researchers, several from the CDC, tested rectal swabs from 114 bats captured in the Amazon rainforest region of Peru. Eighteen species were represented, with most falling within six species. The flat-faced fruit bats (Artibeus planirostris) were positive for influenza on reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. After full-length genomic sequencing, the novel virus was designated as A/bat/Peru/10.

A flu subtype designated H17N10 was recently discovered in yellow-shouldered fruit bats in Guatemala. Phylogenetic analysis in the present study showed that all genes of the A/bat/Peru/10 virus were related to those of the Guatemalan virus but formed a distinct lineage justifying its classification as H18N11, the authors said.

Indeed, their analysis indicated that "bat populations from Central and South America have as much influenza virus genetic diversity in certain gene segments as all other mammalian and avian species combined."

With bats´ global distribution, abundance, population density, and large number of species (more than 1,200), further research should be focused on them as potential reservoirs of novel influenza viruses and as vessels for reassortment and species jumps, the authors wrote.
Oct 10 PLoS Pathog study