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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » Exotic & Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research » Research » Research Project #440079

Research Project: Prediction of Bat Species Susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 Using an In Vitro Cell Model System ( Sequence ACE2 and TMPRSS2)

Location: Exotic & Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research

Project Number: 6040-32000-081-010-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2021
End Date: May 31, 2024

The primary goal of this project is to test angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) genes from 10 to 12 North American bat species to predict if they are susceptible to infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Because of the likely origins of SARS-CoV-2 from bat species in Asia, there is particular concern that North American bat species may be susceptible to reverse zoonosis by SARS-CoV-2. Further, if this virus causes clinical disease in North American bats, SARS-CoV-2 infection in combination with white nose syndrome (WNS) fungal infection could present additional stress to native bat populations. The results of these proposed in vitro experiments can subsequently be used to inform and prioritize confirmatory live-animal experiments, reducing use of live animals and associated costs.

Sequences of angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) genes are currently available for at least 12 bat species and show 75-80% amino acid sequence homology to analogous genes from humans. Because not all the bat species of special concern for susceptibility to white nose syndrome (WNS) are available, we propose to sequence multiple bat species to augment sequence data already available. Sequencing will be completed at the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in coordination with the National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) with work proposed by U.S. Geological Surevey-National Wildlife Health Center as described in the proposal ‘Genome sequencing of North American bats to provide public information for WNS research’. Bat species will be prioritized for testing based upon the following criteria: 1) susceptibility to WNS; 2) phylogenetic diversity according to figure 1; and 3) availability of sequence data for ACE2 and TMPRSS2 genes. A list of prioritized bat species for analysis is provided below. If sequence data is not available and quality tissue samples of the bat species are not available to allow sequencing, alternative bat species will be selected with emphasis on New World bat species.