Filoviruses are prime examples of emerging human pathogens that are transmitted to humans by zoonotic spillover events. Since their initial discovery, filovirus outbreaks have occured with increasing frequency and intensity. There is an urgent need to better understand their enzootic ecology and pathogenic potential, given recent zoonotic virus spillover events including the 2013-2016 West African Ebola virus (EBOV) epidemic. Several novel filoviruses have been discovered with a markedly wider geographic distribution than previously described. One of these novel filoviruses, Lloviu virus (LLOV), was first identified in 2002 in Schreiber’s bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) in Spain, Portugal, and southern France. Subsequently, in 2016, LLOV was detected during the passive monitoring of bats in Hungary.
Here we report the first isolation of infectious Lloviu virus; from the blood of an asymptomatic Schreiber’s bat, subsequently cultivated in the Miniopterus sp. kidney cell line SuBK12-08. We also show that LLOV is able to infect monkey and human cells, suggesting that LLOV might have spillover potential. We performed a multi-year surveillance of LLOV and detected LLOV RNA in both deceased and asymptomatic live animals as well as in coupled ectoparasites from the families Nycteribiidae and Ixodidae. We present data on the natural infection and seropositivity of Schreiber’s bats and provide novel LLOV genomic sequence information from a bat host and an arthropod parasite. Our data support the role of bats, specifically Miniopterus schreibersii as natural reservoirs for the LLOV filovirus in Europe. We also suggest that bat-associated parasites might play a role in the natural ecology of filoviruses in temperate climate regions compared to filoviruses in the tropics. These results raise the possibility of cross-species transmission events via bat-human interactions.
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