Rapid detection of MERS coronavirus-like viruses in bats: pote1ntial for tracking MERS coronavirus transmission and animal origin.Emerg Microbes Infect. 2018 Mar 07; 7(1):18.EM
Recently, we developed a monoclonal antibody-based rapid nucleocapsid protein detection assay for diagnosis of MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in humans and dromedary camels. In this study, we examined the usefulness of this assay to detect other lineage C betacoronaviruses closely related to MERS-CoV in bats. The rapid MERS-CoV nucleocapsid protein detection assay was tested positive in 24 (88.9%) of 27 Tylonycteris bat CoV HKU4 (Ty-BatCoV-HKU4) RNA-positive alimentary samples of Tylonycteris pachypus and 4 (19.0%) of 21 Pipistrellus bat CoV HKU5 (Pi-BatCoV-HKU5) RNA-positive alimentary samples of Pipistrellus abramus. There was significantly more Ty-BatCoV-HKU4 RNA-positive alimentary samples than Pi-BatCoV-HKU5 RNA-positive alimentary samples that were tested positive by the rapid MERS-CoV nucleocapsid protein detection assay (P < 0.001 by Chi-square test). The rapid assay was tested negative in all 51 alimentary samples RNA-positive for alphacoronaviruses (Rhinolophus bat CoV HKU2, Myotis bat CoV HKU6, Miniopterus bat CoV HKU8 and Hipposideros batCoV HKU10) and 32 alimentary samples positive for lineage B (SARS-related Rhinolophus bat CoV HKU3) and lineage D (Rousettus bat CoV HKU9) betacoronaviruses. No significant difference was observed between the viral loads of Ty-BatCoV-HKU4/Pi-BatCoV-HKU5 RNA-positive alimentary samples that were tested positive and negative by the rapid test (Mann-Witney U test). The rapid MERS-CoV nucleocapsid protein detection assay is able to rapidly detect lineage C betacoronaviruses in bats. It detected significantly more Ty-BatCoV-HKU4 than Pi-BatCoV-HKU5 because MERS-CoV is more closely related to Ty-BatCoV-HKU4 than Pi-BatCoV-HKU5. This assay will facilitate rapid on-site mass screening of animal samples for ancestors of MERS-CoV and tracking transmission in the related bat species.