What is the most studied virus

Relatives of the SARS viruses detected for the first time in bats in Germany

The project aims to help assess the risk of zoonoses - infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The lung disease SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) serves as a model. It is caused by coronaviruses that come from Chinese bats. So far, the scientists have no evidence that the viruses found in bats in this country could be dangerous for humans.

Every tenth bat is a virus carrier "Our work shows that coronaviruses also exist in bats outside of China," says study director Professor Christian Drosten from the University Hospital Bonn. “And we have also found initial indications of how these viruses persist and multiply in bats.” The virologists found traces of Group I coronaviruses in the feces of almost every tenth bat. Young animals and their mothers in particular were found to be frequent carriers of the virus. In the so-called nursery colonies, which adult male bats avoid, they are likely to infect each other. Drosten suspects that the coronaviruses - similar to cold viruses in humans - preferentially multiply in the immunologically unprotected young animals. In order to check this thesis, the scientists now want to carry out further studies on the animals that are strictly protected in Germany and look for virus antibodies, for example. Drosten's team examined a total of 315 bats of seven different species. The animals were caught in the summer of 2007 near Bad Segeberg in Schleswig-Holstein. The caves of the Kalkberg there are an important European winter quarter. In addition to virologists from the University Hospital Bonn and the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, experts from the Noctalis Bat Center in Bad Segeberg also took part in the study.

Coronaviruses are mostly harmless to humans
The joint project aims to gain fundamental knowledge about how zoonoses spread with the help of their natural host animals and how it can transfer to humans. Viruses that are dangerous to humans could then be combated in their host animals in the future. Coronaviruses infect both humans and vertebrates. Bats are considered the most likely host animals for all coronaviruses around the world. Until the SARS discovery in 2003, they were considered harmless to humans. Until then, two types of human coronavirus (HcoV) were known, which cause relatively unproblematic colds. A common feature of all coronaviruses is their structure: They consist of a wreath-shaped (Latin: corona = wreath) protein envelope, which protects the genetic material consisting of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS is triggered by a group II coronavirus, the SARS coronavirus (SARSCoV). In the course of 2003, around 8,000 people worldwide were infected by the then novel disease, and more than 900 died. The symptoms of the disease are similar to those of pneumonia. The transmission to humans was probably only possible through a mutation of the virus.

Contact Person:
Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten
University Hospital Bonn
Institute for Virology
Sigmund-Freud-Strasse 25
53127 Bonn
Tel .: 0228 287-11055
Fax: 0228 287-19144
Email: [email protected]