Published on December 11, 2018 | Updated on December 11, 2018


Study of the molecular interplay between fruit bats and highly pathogenic Nipah virus: establishment of the experimental model

Leaders : Branka Horvat (CIRI) and Marc-Bailly Béchet (LBBE)

Bats are an important reservoir and a continuous source of some of the most highly pathogenic viruses for humans, including Nipah (NiV), Hendra, SARS and Ebola viruses. Despite being the second most species-rich and abundant group of mammals, bats are also among the least studied, with a particular paucity of information in the area of bat immunovirology. Understanding how bats coexist with viruses in the absence of disease is essential to develop therapeutics that target viruses in humans as well as in susceptible livestock and companion animals.
We propose to identify cell factors critical for the control of viral infection, using NiV infection in fruit bats as a model. NiV is recently emerged zoonotic pathogen capable of causing severe respiratory illness and encephalitis in humans, with regular outbreaks in South-East Asia. Similarly to previous Ebola occurrences, NiV outbreaks remain sporadic until now and seem to affect only small areas; however, NiV may have a global pandemic potential and is an agent of particular concern in the field of biodefense. Indian flying fox species, Pteropus giganteus, has been described as the major host of NiV, where this virus induces only asymptomatic infection. However, the absence of sequenced genome of P. giganteus presents an important obstacle for further studies of this species.
This interdisciplinary project combines studies in virology, immunology, phylogenetics and genomics, including analysis of transcriptome and genome sequences and enters into Ecofect's ambition to use an integrative approach to understand host-pathogen interactions. The project is a collaborative work of four groups with complementary competences and for which the common goal is to understand the molecular basis of Nipah virus infection in fruit bats. Results obtained from this ambitious project should lead to the development of valuable experimental tools to study Pteropus bats. By providing the first comprehensive analysis of host factors controlling NiV infection in their natural host, this study may reveal novel mechanism(s), which allow(s) bats to control viral infection. This study should allow us to spot the critical immunological barrier(s) that govern(s) resistance of bats to pathogenic effects of NiV infection and offer a cornerstone for the better understanding elements controlling Henipavirus spillovers.
In the long-term, understanding the interaction between the virus and its natural host and factors determining the transmission may facilitate the design of strategies to lower the pathogen prevalence in the host population and thus the risk of transmission to humans. As Pteropus bats are known to host many different viruses, results obtained within this project may help in better understanding of infection not only by NiV, but also by other bat-borne viruses.

Co-leaders : Branka Horvat, team "Immunobiologie des infections virales" (CIRI) and Marc-Bailly Béchet (ISA).
Collaborative partners: Catherine Legras-Lachuer (ViroScan 3D) and Hervé Raoul (Inserm P4 Jean Mérieux laboratory).
Project duration :
3 ans
Financing :
PhD fellowship and consumable money
PhD Fellow:
Noémie Aurine