Public health awareness of emerging zoonotic viruses of bats: A European perspective

W.H.M. van der Poel, P.H.C. Lina, J.A. Kramps

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    Bats classified in the order Chiroptera are the most abundant and widely distributed non-human mammalian species in the world. Several bat species are reservoir hosts of zoonotic viruses and therefore can be a public health hazard. Lyssaviruses of different genotypes have emerged from bats in America (Genotype 1 rabies virus; RABV), Europe (European bat lyssavirus; EBLV), and Australia (Australian bat lyssavirus; ABLV), whereas Nipah virus is the most important recent zoonosis of bat origin in Asia. Furthermore, some insectivorous bat species may be important reservoirs of SARS coronavirus, whereas Ebola virus has been detected in some megachiropteran fruit bats. Thus far, European bat lyssavirus (EBLV) is the only zoonotic virus that has been detected in bats in Europe. New zoonotic viruses may emerge from bat reservoirs and known ones may spread to a wider geographical range. To assess future threats posed by zoonotic viruses of bats, there is a need for accurate knowledge of the factors underlying disease emergence, for an effective surveillance programme, and for a rapid response system. In Europe, primary efforts should be focussed on the implementation of effective passive and active surveillance systems for EBLVs in the Serotine bat, Eptesicus serotinus, and Myotis species (i.e., M. daubentonii and M. dasycneme) Apart from that, detection methods for zoonotic viruses that may emerge from bats should be implemented. Analyses of data from surveillance studies can shed more light on the dynamics of bat viruses, (i.e., population persistence of viruses in bats). Subsequently, studies will have to be performed to assess the public health hazards of such viruses (i.e., infectivity and risk of infection to people). With the knowledge generated from this kind of research, a rapid response system can be set up to enhance public health awareness of emerging zoonotic viruses of bats.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)315-324
    JournalVector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


    • nipah virus
    • family paramyxoviridae
    • lyssavirus infection
    • natural-history
    • menangle virus
    • fusion protein
    • united-states
    • ebola-virus
    • fruit bats
    • pcr assay

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