Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Sánchez, C. A., H. Li, K. L. Phelps, C. Zambrana-Torrelio, L.-F. Wang, P. Zhou, Z.-L. Shi, et al. 2022. A strategy to assess spillover risk of bat SARS-related coronaviruses in Southeast Asia. Nature Communications 13. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-31860-w

Emerging diseases caused by coronaviruses of likely bat origin (e.g., SARS, MERS, SADS, COVID-19) have disrupted global health and economies for two decades. Evidence suggests that some bat SARS-related coronaviruses (SARSr-CoVs) could infect people directly, and that their spillover is more frequent than previously recognized. Each zoonotic spillover of a novel virus represents an opportunity for evolutionary adaptation and further spread; therefore, quantifying the extent of this spillover may help target prevention programs. We derive current range distributions for known bat SARSr-CoV hosts and quantify their overlap with human populations. We then use probabilistic risk assessment and data on human-bat contact, human viral seroprevalence, and antibody duration to estimate that a median of 66,280 people (95% CI: 65,351–67,131) are infected with SARSr-CoVs annually in Southeast Asia. These data on the geography and scale of spillover can be used to target surveillance and prevention programs for potential future bat-CoV emergence. Coronaviruses may spill over from bats to humans. This study uses epidemiological data, species distribution models, and probabilistic risk assessment to map overlap among people and SARSr-CoV bat hosts and estimate how many people are infected with bat-origin SARSr-CoVs in Southeast Asia annually.