While health authorities in Argentina along with WHO officials and also medical researchers are still trying to figure out the causative agent for the outbreak of a new mysterious fatal pneumonia disease in Tucuman-Argentina, caseloads are increasing and another death has also been reported in the last 24 hours.
The latest death was that of a 70-year old woman who was admitted to the Eva Perón hospital in Tucuman province in Argentina for a medical procedure but had developed respiratory distress and was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia. She was subsequently placed in the ICU with ventilation support.
researchers were already warning about the rich diversity of various coronaviruses found in bats in Argentina and the possibility of zoonotic transmissions. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1201971221010730</a>
Bats have proven throughout history to be the reservoir and disseminator of a wide variety of viruses in nature, where they have sometimes been linked to important infections in public health, such is the case of coronaviruses causing SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. Considering the importance of these previous events and due to the lack of information on the coronavirus present in the bat population in Argentina, we decided to monitor their circulation in two provinces in which there is continuous contact of these animals with others (domestic and wild) and human beings.
Methods & Materials
Samples of pharyngeal swabs and fecal matter were collected from different species of bats from the provinces of Jujuy (northern Argentina) and La Pampa (central Argentina), and from other wild and domestic animals that cohabitated with bats. The samples were stored in RNA Shield® 1X until processing. The viral RNA extraction was performed with Quick-RNA Viral Kit (ZYMO RESEARCH®) and the cDNA with EasyScript First-Strand cDNA Synthesis SuperMix (TRANS®). Each sample was analyzed individually by nested PCR directed to a conserved 440 bp fragment located within the viral polymerase gene (Chu et al., 2006).
Preliminary results from 43 stool samples and 53 pharyngeal swabs from insectivorous and hematophagous bats demonstrated the presence of alfacoronavirus sequences in four fecal samples (3 insectivorous bats and 1 hematophagous bat) and in one pharyngeal swab sample from an insectivorous bat. Through comparison with GenBank sequences, the closest relatives identified were alphacoronaviruses of the species Myotis riparius/ nigricans, Molossus rufus and Desmodus rotundus. Interestingly, we found alphacoronavirus sequences of one species present in another bat species since the colonies were in close contact. Samples from other animal species are in the process of being analyzed.
The identification of new coronaviruses that naturally inhabit bat populations and in animal species that share the biological niche, contributes to the knowledge of viral evolution and the biology behind the jump between animal species.