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Total virome characterizations of game animals in China reveals a spectrum of emerging viral pathogens

By Tina He, Xin Hou, Jin Zhao, Jiumeng Sun, Haijian He, Wei Si, Jing Wang, Zhiwen Jiang, Ziqing Yan, Gang Xing, Meng Lu, Marc A Suchard, Xiang Ji, Wenjie Gong, Biao He, Jun Li, Philippe Lemey, Deyin Guo, Changchun Tu, Edward C Holmes, Mang Shi, Shuo Su

Posted 12 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.10.467646

Game animals are wildlife species often traded and consumed as exotic food, and are potential reservoirs for SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. We performed a meta-transcriptomic analysis of 1725 game animals, representing 16 species and five mammalian orders, sampled across China. From this we identified 71 mammalian viruses, with 45 described for the first time. Eighteen viruses were considered as potentially high risk to humans and domestic animals. Civets (Paguma larvata) carried the highest number of potentially high risk viruses. We identified the transmission of Bat coronavirus HKU8 from a bat to a civet, as well as cross-species jumps of coronaviruses from bats to hedgehogs and from birds to porcupines. We similarly identified avian Influenza A virus H9N2 in civets and Asian badgers, with the latter displaying respiratory symptoms, as well as cases of likely human-to-wildlife virus transmission. These data highlight the importance of game animals as potential drivers of disease emergence.

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