Aim: to improve understanding of the origins, natural history and dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-like coronaviruses in their natural environment. The main focus is to shed light on interspecies transmission (among bats, between bats and other animals, and between bats and humans); this is vital to mitigate the effects of future outbreaks like the devastating pandemic we are currently witnessing with SARS-CoV-2.
It is crucial to determine which bat species serve(s) as natural reservoirs for SARS-CoV-2. This project will involve collecting biological samples (oral and fecal swabs, blood and urine samples) from bats and testing them for SARS-CoV-2 or other SARS-CoVs to determine their natural host.
Bat fly ectoparasites and flying hematophagous insects (sand flies, mosquitoes and biting midges) will also be tested for the virus, since they may play a role in transmitting SARS-CoVs from one bat to another. Interactions with other animals will be observed to identify other potential hosts (snakes, civet cats or pangolins).