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Identification of group A rotaviruses from Zambian fruit bats provides evidence for long-distance dispersal events in Africa

Sasaki, Michihito, Kajihara, Masahiro, Changula, Katendi, Mori-Kajihara, Akina, Ogawa, Hirohito, Hang'ombe, Bernard M., Mweene, Aaron S., Simuunza, Martin, Yoshida, Reiko, Carr, Michael, Orba, Yasuko, Takada, Ayato, Sawa, Hirofumi
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2018 v.63 pp. 104-109
Rotavirus A, Rousettus, animals, children, diarrhea, disease transmission, ecology, genes, genetic variation, genotype, migratory behavior, nucleotide sequences, sequence analysis, Cameroon
Group A rotavirus (RVA) is a major cause of diarrhea in children worldwide. Although RVA infects many animals, little is known about RVA in bats. The present study investigated the genetic diversity of RVA in Zambian bats. We identified RVA from two straw-colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum) and an Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus), and analyzed the genome sequences of these strains. Genome segments of the RVA strains from Zambian E. helvum showed 97%–99% nucleotide sequence identity with those of other RVA strains from E. helvum in Cameroon, which is 2800 km from the sampling locations. These findings suggest that migratory straw-colored fruit bat species, distributed across sub-Saharan Africa, have the potential to disseminate RVA across long distances. By contrast, the RVA strain from Zambian R. aegyptiacus carried highly divergent NSP2 and NSP4 genes, leading us to propose novel genotypes N21 and E27, respectively. Notably, this RVA strain also shared the same genotype for VP6 and NSP3 with the RVA strains from Zambian E. helvum, suggesting interspecies transmission and genetic reassortment may have occurred between these two bat species in the past. Our study has important implications for RVA dispersal in bat populations, and expands our knowledge of the ecology, diversity and evolutionary relationships of RVA.