Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) emerged in 2002 to 2003 in southern China and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was detected in September 2012 in southwest Asia have underscored the potential of coronavirus to become emerging infectious diseases. Subsequently, the findings that the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) were originated from bats emphasized the importance of bats as reservoir hosts of emerging infectious diseases. Previously, mark-recapture data of a novel Australian bat Alphacoronavirus in Myotis macropus identified that this coronavirus was maintained in the population by persistent infected bats. We have taken one step further by utilizing more statistically intense methods of analyses in order to confirm the effects of persistent infection on the coronavirus maintenance in the population of bats.
We additionally analysed the data by using ‘MARK’ and ‘OpenBUGS’ to estimate parameters, which subsequently were used to build compartment model, in which the effects of persistent infections against transient infection was estimated to see how it functions in maintenance of coronavirus.
The mark-recapture analysis found no evidence that sex and age significantly affect the survival, recapture and transition rates between infection states. Infection was shown to make survival rate decreased slightly, and to make recapture rate increased. Modelling results suggested that the role of persistent infections is not quite dominant but certainly has an effect on the maintenance of coronavirus in the bat population.
This study identifies potential effects of persistent infections in coronavirus transmission dynamics, and adds weight to the suggestion that these mechanisms may be an important coronavirus maintenance mechanism in bat populations, and, by extension, may be applicable to other bat RNA virus ecology.