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Bats are a major reservoir for many viral pathogens, however retroviruses are yet to be isolated from bats.
Retroviruses are found in the genome of mammals and can be transmitted vertically through the germ line (e.g. endogenous) or transmitted horizontally (e.g. exogenous).
Endogenous retroviral sequences are present as a critical part of eukaryotic genomes and normally represent the fossil record of extinct viruses.
Our analysis of the transcriptome of bat species has revealed the presence of retroviral transcripts that, at the amino acid level, demonstrate homology to extant (currently existing) gammaretroviruses and betaretroviruses.
However, whether infectious retroviruses can be produced from intact endogenous retroviruses and if exogenous retroviruses are currently circulating in bats are unknown.
The study aims to identify and characterise retroviral sequences found in bat specimens.
It will also increase our fundamental understanding of bat retroviruses and could have public health implications since bats are hunted for bush meat in many countries.