Screening for coronavirus strains in Myotis velifer



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SARS-CoV-2 is the causative virus of COVID-19 and a member of the group of viruses known as the coronaviruses. The Coronaviridae family contains four genera of viruses grouped as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta coronaviruses. Bats are the natural reservoir for alpha and beta coronaviruses, the two genera known to have species that infect humans. Seven coronaviruses cause disease in humans, and all of these originated as a zoonotic infection that spilled over from an animal source. In monitoring and predicting potential zoonotic disease outbreaks, being aware of wild reservoirs of viruses is vital. A first step in this process is screening for the presence of virus in wildlife. While alpha and beta coronaviruses have been found in many groups of bats and are believed to have coevolved with bats, bats from Texas have not yet been analyzed to determine which, if any, strains of coronaviruses these bats carry. I hypothesized that bats from Texas would carry coronaviruses within the alpha or beta coronavirus genera. In this study, RNA was extracted from gastrointestinal tissue samples of bats from Texas and subjected to reverse transcriptase-PCR to assess for the presence or absence of coronavirus. Exon priming, intron containing primers of bat housekeeping genes and novel coronavirus primers were designed for the amplification and analysis of degraded samples. No coronavirus RNA was detected in any of 13 samples tested.