Posted: April 6, 2017

A recently published study from Veterinary and Biomedical Science researchers at Penn State could pave the way to better understand the ecology and evolution of influenza viruses.

The study led by Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi, Associate Professor of virology at the Penn State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, demonstrated that bats express receptors that allow binding of avian and human flu viruses.

Bats are known to serve as asymptomatic reservoirs of many zoonotic viruses including some of the deadliest viruses in humans. The role of bats in influenza virus ecology became evident after the discovery of two novel influenza-like viruses and more recently serological evidence of avian influenza infection of frugivorous bats. However a key question which remains to be answered is "Can bats be co-infected with avian and mammalian IAVs and act as mixing vessels for the IAVs?". So far nothing is known about influenza virus receptors in any bat species.

To answer this question, a multi-disciplinary team led by Dr. Kuchipudi investigated the presence of influenza receptors in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), the most widely distributed bat species in North America. The study demonstrated that little brown bats co-express sialic acid (SA) receptors that are compatible with extensive binding of avian and human influenza viruses. This is the first ever evidence of influenza receptors in a bat species in the world.

Ms. Shubhada Chothe, graduate student in Dr Kuchipudi's lab received the first annual Brenda Love Memorial Award by the American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM) for this study which she presented at the 59th annual meeting of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) at Greensboro, North Carolina.

Kuchipudi's team describes these findings in an article recently published in Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed academic journal.

This work was carried out by the members of Dr. Kuchipudi laboratory in collaboration with researchers at the Penn State Department of Physics, wildlife biologists at the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and researchers from Bucknell and Temple Universities.

See the full article in Nature

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