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Journal: Viruses


Pangolins are endangered animals in urgent need of protection. Identifying and cataloguing the viruses carried by pangolins is a logical approach to evaluate the range of potential pathogens and help with conservation. This study provides insight into viral communities of Malayan Pangolins (Manis javanica) as well as the molecular epidemiology of dominant pathogenic viruses between Malayan Pangolin and other hosts. A total of 62,508 de novo assembled contigs were constructed, and a BLAST search revealed 3600 ones (≥300 nt) were related to viral sequences, of which 68 contigs had a high level of sequence similarity to known viruses, while dominant viruses were the Sendai virus and Coronavirus. This is the first report on the viral diversity of pangolins, expanding our understanding of the virome in endangered species, and providing insight into the overall diversity of viruses that may be capable of directly or indirectly crossing over into other mammals.


The respiratory Influenza A Viruses (IAVs) and emerging zoonotic viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pose a significant threat to human health. To accelerate our understanding of the host-pathogen response to respiratory viruses, the use of more complex in vitro systems such as normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cell culture models has gained prominence as an alternative to animal models. NHBE cells were differentiated under air-liquid interface (ALI) conditions to form an in vitro pseudostratified epithelium. The responses of well-differentiated (wd) NHBE cells were examined following infection with the 2009 pandemic Influenza A/H1N1pdm09 strain or following challenge with the dsRNA mimic, poly(I:C). At 30 h postinfection with H1N1pdm09, the integrity of the airway epithelium was severely impaired and apical junction complex damage was exhibited by the disassembly of zona occludens-1 (ZO-1) from the cell cytoskeleton. wdNHBE cells produced an innate immune response to IAV-infection with increased transcription of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines and the antiviral viperin but reduced expression of the mucin-encoding MUC5B, which may impair mucociliary clearance. Poly(I:C) produced similar responses to IAV, with the exception of MUC5B expression which was more than 3-fold higher than for control cells. This study demonstrates that wdNHBE cells are an appropriate ex-vivo model system to investigate the pathogenesis of respiratory viruses.


Bats are speculated to be reservoirs of several emerging viruses including coronaviruses (CoVs) that cause serious disease in humans and agricultural animals. These include CoVs that cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) and severe acute diarrhea syndrome (SADS). Bats that are naturally infected or experimentally infected do not demonstrate clinical signs of disease. These observations have allowed researchers to speculate that bats are the likely reservoirs or ancestral hosts for several CoVs. In this review, we follow the CoV outbreaks that are speculated to have originated in bats. We review studies that have allowed researchers to identify unique adaptation in bats that may allow them to harbor CoVs without severe disease. We speculate about future studies that are critical to identify how bats can harbor multiple strains of CoVs and factors that enable these viruses to “jump” from bats to other mammals. We hope that this review will enable readers to identify gaps in knowledge that currently exist and initiate a dialogue amongst bat researchers to share resources to overcome present limitations.


High-throughput transcriptome sequencing allows for the unbiased detection of viruses in host tissues. The application of this technique to immunosuppressed animals facilitates the detection of viruses that might otherwise be excluded or contained in immunocompetent individuals. To identify potential viral pathogens infecting domestic cats we performed high-throughput transcriptome sequencing of tissues from cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). A novel member of the Hepadnaviridae, tentatively named domestic cat hepadnavirus, was discovered in a lymphoma sample and its complete 3187 bp genome characterized. Phylogenetic analysis placed the domestic cat hepadnavirus as a divergent member of mammalian orthohepadnaviruses that exhibits no close relationship to any other virus. DNA extracted from whole blood from pet cats was positive for the novel hepadnavirus by PCR in 6 of 60 (10%) FIV-infected cats and 2 of 63 (3.2%) FIV-uninfected cats. The higher prevalence of hepadnavirus viraemia detected in FIV-infected cats mirrors that seen in human immunodeficiency virus-infected humans coinfected with hepatitis B virus. In summary, we report the first hepadnavirus infection in a carnivore and the first in a companion animal. The natural history, epidemiology and pathogenic potential of domestic cat hepadnavirus merits additional investigation.


There is growing interest in characterizing the viromes of diverse mammalian species, particularly in the context of disease emergence. However, little is known about virome diversity in aquatic mammals, in part due to difficulties in sampling. We characterized the virome of the exhaled breath (or blow) of the Eastern Australian humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). To achieve an unbiased survey of virome diversity, a meta-transcriptomic analysis was performed on 19 pooled whale blow samples collected via a purpose-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, or drone) approximately 3 km off the coast of Sydney, Australia during the 2017 winter annual northward migration from Antarctica to northern Australia. To our knowledge, this is the first time that UAVs have been used to sample viruses. Despite the relatively small number of animals surveyed in this initial study, we identified six novel virus species from five viral families. This work demonstrates the potential of UAVs in studies of virus disease, diversity, and evolution.


Studying the coevolutionary dynamics between bacteria and the bacteriophage viruses that infect them is critical to understanding both microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning. Phages can play a key role in shaping bacterial population dynamics and can significantly alter both intra- and inter-specific competition among bacterial hosts. Predicting how phages might influence community stability and apparent competition, however, requires an understanding of how bacteria-phage interaction networks evolve as a function of host diversity and community dynamics. Here, we first review the progress that has been made in understanding phage specificity, including the use of experimental evolution, we then introduce a new dataset on natural bacteriophages collected from the phyllosphere of horse chestnut trees, and finally we highlight that bacterial sensitivity to phage is rarely a binary trait and that this variation should be taken into account and reported. We emphasize that there is currently insufficient evidence to make broad generalizations about phage host range in natural populations, the limits of phage adaptation to novel hosts, or the implications of phage specificity in shaping microbial communities. However, the combination of experimental and genomic approaches with the study of natural communities will allow new insight to the evolution and impact of phage specificity within complex bacterial communities.

Concepts: DNA, Natural selection, Bacteria, Evolution, Microbiology, Virus, Genome, Bacteriophage


The outbreak of West Nile virus (WNV) in 1999 in the USA, and its continued spread throughout the Americas, parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, underscored the need for WNV antiviral development. Here, we review the current status of WNV drug discovery. A number of approaches have been used to search for inhibitors of WNV, including viral infection-based screening, enzyme-based screening, structure-based virtual screening, structure-based rationale design, and antibody-based therapy. These efforts have yielded inhibitors of viral or cellular factors that are critical for viral replication. For small molecule inhibitors, no promising preclinical candidate has been developed; most of the inhibitors could not even be advanced to the stage of hit-to-lead optimization due to their poor drug-like properties. However, several inhibitors developed for related members of the family Flaviviridae, such as dengue virus and hepatitis C virus, exhibited cross-inhibition of WNV, suggesting the possibility to re-purpose these antivirals for WNV treatment. Most promisingly, therapeutic antibodies have shown excellent efficacy in mouse model; one of such antibodies has been advanced into clinical trial. The knowledge accumulated during the past fifteen years has provided better rationale for the ongoing WNV and other flavivirus antiviral development.

Concepts: Microbiology, Middle East, Ribavirin, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Flavivirus, Flaviviridae, Flaviviruses


Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is a group of viruses that belongs to the Picornaviridae family, which also includes viruses such as polioviruses. EV71, together with coxsackieviruses, is widely known for its association with Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD), which generally affects children age five and below. Besides HFMD, EV71 can also trigger more severe and life-threatening neurological conditions such as encephalitis. Considering the lack of a vaccine and antiviral drug against EV71, together with the increasing spread of these viruses, the development of such drugs and vaccines becomes the top priority in protecting our younger generations. This article, hence, reviews some of the recent progress in the formulations of anti-therapeutics and vaccine generation for EV71, covering (i) inactivated vaccines; (ii) baculovirus-expressed vaccines against EV71; (iii) human intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) treatment; and (iv) the use of monoclonal antibody therapy as a prevention and treatment for EV71 infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Enterovirus, Monoclonal antibodies, Immunology, Influenza, Meningitis


Transcriptome analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) tissues identified sequences with similarity to Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses (PERV). Based on these sequences, four proviral copies and 15 solo long terminal repeats (LTRs) of a newly described endogenous retrovirus were characterized from the polar bear draft genome sequence. Closely related sequences were identified by PCR analysis of brown bear (Ursus arctos) and black bear (Ursus americanus) but were absent in non-Ursinae bear species. The virus was therefore designated UrsusERV. Two distinct groups of LTRs were observed including a recombinant ERV that contained one LTR belonging to each group indicating that genomic invasions by at least two UrsusERV variants have recently occurred. Age estimates based on proviral LTR divergence and conservation of integration sites among ursids suggest the viral group is only a few million years old. The youngest provirus was polar bear specific, had intact open reading frames (ORFs) and could potentially encode functional proteins. Phylogenetic analyses of UrsusERV consensus protein sequences suggest that it is part of a pig, gibbon and koala retrovirus clade. The young age estimates and lineage specificity of the virus suggests UrsusERV is a recent cross species transmission from an unknown reservoir and places the viral group among the youngest of ERVs identified in mammals.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Molecular biology, Horizontal gene transfer, Endogenous retrovirus, Bear, Polar bear, Ursus


Endogenous retrovirus (ERV) sequences provide a rich source of information about the long-term interactions between retroviruses and their hosts. However, most ERVs are derived from a subset of retrovirus groups, while ERVs derived from certain other groups remain extremely rare. In particular, only a single ERV sequence has been identified that shows evidence of being related to an ancient Deltaretrovirus, despite the large number of vertebrate genome sequences now available. In this report, we identify a second example of an ERV sequence putatively derived from a past deltaretroviral infection, in the genomes of several species of horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae). This sequence represents a fragment of viral genome derived from a single integration. The time of the integration was estimated to be 11-19 million years ago. This finding, together with the previously identified endogenous Deltaretrovirus in long-fingered bats (Miniopteridae), suggest a close association of bats with ancient deltaretroviruses.

Concepts: HIV, DNA, Mathematics, RNA virus, Natural number, Retrovirus, Endogenous retrovirus, Retroviruses