Bats species harbor a large number of viruses that cause human disease. So, when the first influenza sequences from Guatemalan little yellow-shouldered bats were uncovered in 2009, the question arose of whether bat influenza viruses pose a threat to human health. A collaborative project between JCVI and Kansas State University was recently published in PLoS Pathogens to address this question.
The approach employed cutting-edge synthetic biology approaches and demonstrated that, while the sequences of the bat influenza virus of the subtype H17N10 are viable, they are unable to infect human cells. Additional experiments clearly indicated that these bat virus sequences are not able to reassort with other influenza A and B viruses known to infect humans. Therefore, the potential for a pandemic bat influenza entering the human population is extremely unlikely.
David Wentworth, the former Director of Viral Programs at JCVI, was the lead investigator for this study. Additional authors from JCVI include Tim Stockwell, Wei Wang, Xudong Lin, Bin Zhou (now at NYU), and Reed Shabman.
For additional information see the press release.