New astroviruses are identified in bats

HONG KONG (UPI) — Chinese scientists say they’ve discovered bats might be reservoirs of a new group of astroviruses that cause diarrhea in many species, including humans.

Researchers at the University of Hong Kong and the school’s Pasteur Research Center said astroviruses are associated with gastroenteritis in a variety of mammals including humans, but most commonly afflict children, elderly people and immune-compromised patients. Until now, most studies of astroviruses have focused on humans and domesticated animals, so little is known about potential carriers in wildlife.

In the new study the scientists collected fecal samples from a single habitat of apparently healthy insectivorous bats in Hong Kong during a one year period. Results showed high genetic diversity of viruses within a single habitat. And that, the researchers said, suggests some of the bat astroviruses might be genetically linked with human astroviruses and further studies are warranted.

“These findings are likely to provide new insights into the ecology and evolution of astroviruses and reinforce the role of bats as a reservoir of viruses with potential to pose a zoonotic threat to human health,” said the scientists.

The findings are reported in the September issue of the Journal of Virology

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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