Did SARS come from bats?

Wild bats, rather than civet cats, may have been the source of the coronavirus behind the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003.

Charles Choi
Oct 23, 2005
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© Rollin Verlinde

Wild bats, rather than civet cats, may have been the source of the coronavirus behind the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003. Lin-fa Wang of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong and colleagues in China, Australia, and the United States tested blood, throat, and fecal swabs from 408 wild horseshoe bats, representing nine species, from four locations in Mainland China. Analyses revealed SARS-like coronavirus in five fecal samples from Rhinolophus pearsoni, Rhinolophus macrotis, and Rhinolophus ferrumequinum.1

Bat-derived viruses revealed greater genetic variation than human or civet isolates. "It's pretty clear from that phylogeny that this is the origin of SARS," says coauthor Peter Daszak, executive director of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine based at the Wildlife Trust in New York. Independently, Kwok-Yung Yuen of the University of Hong Kong and his colleagues analyzed blood samples and nasopharyngeal and anal swabs from Rhinolophus sinicus...

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