Experimental challenge of a North American bat species, big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), with SARS-CoV-2

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The recently emerged novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, is phylogenetically related to bat coronaviruses (CoVs), specifically SARS-related CoVs from the Eurasian bat family Rhinolophidae. As this human pandemic virus has spread across the world, the potential impacts of SARS-CoV-2 on native North American bat populations are unknown, as is the ability of North American bats to serve as reservoirs or intermediate hosts able to transmit the virus to humans or to other animal species. To help determine the impacts of the pandemic virus on North American bat populations, we experimentally challenged big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) with SARS-CoV-2 under BSL-3 conditions. We inoculated the bats both oropharyngeally and nasally, and over the ensuing three weeks, we measured infectivity, pathology, virus concentrations in tissues, oral and rectal virus excretion, virus transmission, and clinical signs of disease. We found no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in any examined bat, including no viral excretion, no transmission, no detectable virus in tissues, and no signs of disease or pathology. Based on our findings, it appears that big brown bats are resistant to infection with the SARS-CoV-2. The potential susceptibility of other North American bat species to SARS-CoV-2 remains to be investigated.

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Transboundary and emerging diseases

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