July 1, 2010 -- Viral hepatitis affects more than 500 million people worldwide and is a cause of liver failure and liver cancer. While vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, this is not the case for hepatitis C, which affects as much as two percent of the population in the U.S. Scientists today are reporting discovery of a virus related to hepatitis C in Asian bats, which may provide insights into the origins of the hepatitis C virus and into the mechanisms by which infectious diseases move from other species to humans.
The full study findings are published online in the publication PLoS Pathogens.
Transmitted by blood transfusion or sexual intercourse, hepatitis C is a common cause of liver failure. Viruses related to hepatitis C, known as GB-viruses, have previously been found only in primates. Now, using cutting-edge molecular techniques, an international team of investigators has identified a GB-virus in Pteropus giganteus bats in Bangladesh. The work was completed at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, led by W. Ian Lipkin, MD; the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh; 454 Life Sciences, a Connecticut-based division of Roche Corporation; and the Wildlife Trust in New York City. Using gene sequencing methods, the investigators confirmed the viral genetic material in the serum of five of 98 bats, and in the saliva of one, to be related to GBV-A and C viruses. Further analysis of the two identified strains, tentatively named GBV-D, suggests that P. giganteus bats are a natural reservoir for this virus. According to the research team, the fact that bat saliva can contain GBV-D nucleic acids provides a biologically plausible mechanism for this agent to be transmitted from infected bats to other hosts, including humans.
Bats are often important hosts for emerging infectious disease agents with significant impact on human healt
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health