New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2023) 47(1): 3556

Coronavirus shedding in New Zealand bats: insights and future perspectives

Short Communication
Pablo Tortosa 1,2*
Kate McInnes 3
Colin F. J. O’Donnell 3
Moira Pryde 3
Yann Gomard 1
Camille Lebarbenchon 1
Robert Poulin 2
  1. UMR PIMIT Processus Infectieux en Milieu Insulaire Tropical, Université de La Réunion, CNRS 9192, INSERM 1187, IRD 249, Plateforme de recherche CYROI, 2 rue Maxime Rivière, 97490 Ste Clotilde, France
  2. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
  3. Biodiversity Group, Department of Conservation, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The current COVID-19 pandemic emphasises the dramatic consequences of emerging zoonotic pathogens and stimulates the need for an assessment of the evolution and natural cycle of such microbes in a “One Health” framework. A number of recent studies have revealed an astonishing diversity of bat-borne coronaviruses, including in insular environments, which can be considered as simplified biological systems suited for the exploration of the transmission cycles of these viruses in nature. In this work, we present two new lineages of Alphacoronaviruses detected by screening the only two extant New Zealand bat species: the lesser short-tailed bat (Mystacina tuberculata) and the long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus). Infection prevalence reaching 60% in long-tailed bats makes this host-pathogen model relevant for the investigation of maintenance mechanisms in a bat reservoir with peculiar physiological adaptations to temperate climates. A phylogenetic analysis shows that these viral lineages do cluster with coronaviruses hosted by bat sister species from Australia, supporting co-diversification processes. These patterns provide an interesting framework for further research aiming at elucidating the natural history and biological cycles of bat-borne coronaviruses.