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Middle East virus evolved in bats

Thursday October 10th, 2013

The deadly new virus from the Middle East has come from bats, researchers confirm today.

The virus has been for generations been involved in a "long-term arms race" with the flying mammals, researchers say.

In just over 12 months, the new MERS-CoV virus has been responsible for 58 deaths and is known to have caused 78 other illnesses.

Most of the illnesses in the Middle East and the virus has been responsible for at least one outbreak in hospitals in Saudi-Arabia.

The finding means that both bats and the virus have been evolving for years as the animals sought to shake off the infection, according to a report in Virology Journal.

And it is possible this has involved several species of bat, they report.

The findings come from a study of genes known as DPP4 genes in bats and other animals.

The researchers say the virus evolved over an "extended time period."

Researcher Jie Cui, of the University of Sydney, Australia, said: “Our analysis suggests that an evolutionary lineage leading to the current MERS-CoV co-evolved with bat hosts for an extended time period, eventually jumping species boundaries to infect humans, perhaps through an intermediate host.”

Adaptive evolution of bat dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (dpp4): implications for the origin and emergence of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus. Virology Journal 10 October 2013; 10:304

Tags: Asia | Australia | Flu & Viruses | Respiratory

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