The role of bats as reservoir hosts of emerging neuroviruses
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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.Recent studies have clearly shown that bats are the reservoir hosts of a wide diversity of novel viruses with representatives from most of the known animal virus families. In many respects bats make ideal reservoir hosts for viruses: they are the only mammals that fly, thus assisting in virus dispersal; they roost in large numbers, thus aiding transmission cycles; some bats hibernate over winter, thus providing a mechanism for viruses to persist between seasons; and genetic factors may play a role in the ability of bats to host viruses without resulting in clinical disease. Within the broad diversity of viruses found in bats are some important neurological pathogens, including rabies and other lyssaviruses, and Hendra and Nipah viruses, two recently described viruses that have been placed in a new genus, Henipaviruses in the family Paramyxoviridae. In addition, bats can also act as alternative hosts for the flaviviruses Japanese encephalitis and St Louis encephalitis viruses, two important mosquito-borne encephalitogenic viruses, and bats can assist in the dispersal and over-wintering of these viruses. Bats are also the reservoir hosts of progenitors of SARS and MERS coronaviruses, although other animals act as spillover hosts. This chapter presents the physiological and ecological factors affecting the ability of bats to act as reservoirs of neurotropic viruses, and describes the major transmission cycles leading to human infection.
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