Deadly Respiratory Infection Took Hold in Bats, Study Says
Genetic analysis indicates they were probably first species to battle MERS virus
FRIDAY, Oct. 11, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- A new and deadly respiratory virus in the Middle East was present in bats for a long time before making the leap to humans, a new study indicates.
To learn more about the origins of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), researchers analyzed the genomes of seven bat species. They found that bat DPP4 genes showed signs of significant adaptation, which suggests that bats have been trying to fight the virus for a long time.
Previous research has shown that MERS uses the DPP4 receptor to enter cells.
The researchers also analyzed the genomes of a number of other mammals and found that the DPP4 genes in bats were under more pressure, with mutations occurring at a faster rate.
This indicates that MERS not only originated in bats but also evolved over an extended length of time in bats before making the jump to infect humans, possibly moving between bats and humans through another species.
The study was published online Oct. 10 in the Virology Journal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about MERS.