Intestinal Tropism of a Betacoronavirus (Merbecovirus) in Nathusius's Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), Its Natural Host

Vera C Mols*, Mart M Lamers, Lonneke M E Leijten, Tim I Breugem, Marco W G van de Bildt, Petra B van den Doel, Peter H C Lina, Marion P G Koopmans, Bart L Haagmans, Thijs Kuiken, Lineke Begeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The emergence of several bat coronavirus-related disease outbreaks in human and domestic animals has fueled surveillance of coronaviruses in bats worldwide. However, little is known about how these viruses interact with their natural hosts. We demonstrate a Betacoronavirus (subgenus Merbecovirus), PN-βCoV, in the intestine of its natural host, Nathusius’s Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus nathusii), by combining molecular and microscopy techniques. Eighty-eight P. nathusii bat carcasses were tested for PN-βCoV RNA by RT-qPCR, of which 25 bats (28%) tested positive. PN-βCoV RNA was more often detected in samples of the intestinal tract than in other sample types. In addition, viral RNA loads were higher in intestinal samples compared to other sample types, both on average and in each individual bat. In one bat, we demonstrated Merbecovirus antigen and PN-βCoV RNA expression in intestinal epithelium and the underlying connective tissue using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, respectively. These results indicate that PN-βCoV has a tropism for the intestinal epithelium of its natural host, Nathusius’s Pipistrelle Bat, and imply that the fecal-oral route is a possible route of transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0059623
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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