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Vampire bats: Who bit whom?

Scientists discovered a new retrovirus “fossil” found in the common which is homologous to retroviruses in rodents and primates. The results suggest the recent circulation of an active infectious retrovirus and cross-species transmission. The study has been published in the scientific journal “Journal of Virology”.

Vampire bat () samples from Mexico and from the Berlin Zoological Garden revealed a new (named DrERV after Desmodus rotundus ) that is also present in rodents and primates but is absent in other closely related bat species. The results suggest that this virus historically jumped more than once among different species. Moreover, evolutionary analysis showed that this virus integrated long ago in but very recently in monkeys and rats, suggesting that an active infectious counterpart of DrERV might still be in circulation.

“We were surprised to get a result that suggests that vampire bats may not be the reservoir for this retrovirus but might have been infected independently of monkeys and rats by a yet undiscovered reservoir”, says Marina Escalera, leading author of the study.

Vampire bats
Vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)
Photo: E Lonza Rubio and ML Ojeda Mendez


A novel endogenous betaretrovirus in the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) suggests multiple independent infection and cross-species transmission events, Escalera-Zamudio M, Mendoza MLZ, Heeger F, Loza-Rubio E, Rojas-Anaya E, Méndez-Ojeda ML, Taboad B, Mazzoni CJ, Arias CF, Greenwood AD,Journal of Virology, DOI: 10.1128/JVI.03452-14, published online 25 February 2015.

Source: Berlin Research Association (FVB)