FEB 18, 2016 7:38 PM PST

Novel bat virus also infects human cells

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
Researchers identified a new herpes virus that infects bats.

Herpes viruses are double-stranded DNA viruses that infect a wide range of species.  These viruses are divided into three subfamilies: alphaherpes viruses, betaherpes viruses, and gammaherpes viruses. The newly-discovered bat virus falls into the third family, the gammaherpes viruses.
Researchers identified a new bat herpes virus.

The researchers, made up of investigators from the Icahn School of Medicine in New York and the J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland, found the virus, now dubbed BGHV8, while studying bat tumor cells. Actually, the discovery was somewhat of an accident.  They stumbled upon a number of herpes virus genes while sequencing the bat tumor cell DNA.  

According to study author Christopher Basler, “the cool thing about this study is that it was so surprising … we didn't go looking for a virus and really, by accident, we found this new virus, and it turned out to be the first replicating bat gammaherpesvirus. We think it's exciting for people interested in studying how bats interact with viruses”.

To determine whether BGHV8 could infect other species, they transferred culture media from the infected bat cells to a sample of Vero (monkey) cells.  All of the Vero cells died within 18 hours.  On top of that, BGHV8 readily infected both human lung and liver cells.  

This finding will not only help researchers understand how bats respond to disease, but also how certain diseases are passed from bats to humans.  According to Basler, "we have very few tools to study bats' immune response to viruses. This natural bat virus is actually going to prove to be useful in understanding and probing how bats respond to natural infections and microorganisms that can cause disease.”

Source: Science Daily, Wikipedia
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
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