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Chauves-souris et virus : des relations complexes

Bats and Viruses: complex relationships

Résumé

Avec plus de 1 200 espèces répertoriées, l’Ordre des Chiroptères (les chauves-souris) constitue, parmi les Mammifères, le second en importance après celui des Rongeurs. Beaucoup d’espèces sont insectivores, d’autres sont frugivores et quelques espèces sont hématophages. Certains de ces animaux sont nocturnes ou crépusculaires alors que d’autres sont actifs de jour ; les uns entreprennent d’importantes migrations saisonnières, d’autres adoptent un domaine vital restreint. Cependant, malgré l’importance du rôle des chauves-souris dans le fonctionnement de la biosphère, leur bio-écologie, au demeurant très variée, demeure mal connue. Plus d’une soixantaine de virus a été isolée ou détectée chez des chauves-souris qui, selon différentes modalités, se trouvent ainsi impliquées dans la circulation de beaucoup d’entre eux ; c’est le cas, notamment, de Rhabdoviridae du genre Lyssavirus, de Paramyxoviridae comme les virus Nipah et Hendra, de Filoviridae (virus Ebola et Marburg) ou de Coronaviridae comme les agents du syndrome respiratoire aigu sévère (SRAS) et du syndrome respiratoire du Moyen- Orient (MERS). Certaines espèces de chauves-souris semblent constituer, pour ces agents infectieux, des réservoirs ou d’efficaces disséminateurs, voire des agents transmetteurs. Des groupes entiers de virus se sont développés chez ces Mammifères par des mécanismes de coévolution entre virus et chauves-souris. Le caractère généralement asymptomatique de ces infections virales chez les Chiroptères est remarqué depuis longtemps mais les mécanismes de cette tolérance ne sont pas encore bien compris. Certains des virus en question étant hautement pathogènes pour l’Homme ou les animaux domestiques ou sauvages, les chauves-souris représentent un risque important en santé publique humaine et animale. Pour mieux comprendre leur rôle dans la circulation de ces zoonoses virales, les épidémiologistes doivent se pencher sur certains de leurs traits de vie comme leur longévité, leurs régimes alimentaires, leur comportement grégaire, l’hibernation, les migrations ou le fonctionnement de leur système immunitaire. Il convient également d’analyser les interactions entre les chauves-souris et les modifications écologiques induites par l’Homme et d’en suivre attentivement les populations et les virus qu’elles hébergent en mettant sur pied des réseaux d’épidémio-surveillance impliquant médecins, vétérinaires, spécialistes de la faune sauvage, écologistes, etc. dans l’espoir de comprendre les mécanismes d’émergence, de tenter de les prévoir et, peut-être, de les prévenir. Enfin, une recherche plus fondamentale portant sur les mécanismes immunitaires mis en jeu lors des infections virales s’avère indispensable pour saisir les raisons qui font des Chiroptères des réservoirs aussi efficaces.

Abstract

With more than 1 200 species, bats and flying foxes (Order Chiroptera) constitute the most important and diverse order of Mammals after Rodents. Many species of bats are insectivorous while others are frugivorous and few of them are hematophagous. Some of these animals fly during the night, others are crepuscular or diurnal. Some fly long distances during seasonal migrations. Many species are colonial cave-dwelling, living in a rather small home range while others are relatively solitary. However, in spite of the importance of bats for terrestrial biotic communities and ecosystem ecology, the diversity in their biology and lifestyles remain poorly known and underappreciated. More than sixty viruses have been detected or isolated in bats; these animals are therefore involved in the natural cycles of many of them. This is the case, for instance, of rabies virus and other Lyssavirus (Family Rhabdoviridae), Nipah and Hendra viruses (Paramyxoviridae), Ebola and Marburg viruses (Filoviridae), SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV (Coronaviridae). For these zoonotic viruses, a number of bat species are considered as important reservoir hosts, efficient disseminators or even directly responsible of the transmission. Some of these bat-borne viruses cause highly pathogenic diseases while others are of potential significance for humans and domestic or wild animals; so, bats are an important risk in human and animal public health. Moreover, some groups of viruses developed through different phylogenetic mechanisms of coevolution between viruses and bats. The fact that most of these viral infections are asymptomatic in bats has been observed since a long time but the mechanisms of the viral persistence are not clearly understood. The various bioecology of the different bat populations allows exchange of virus between migrating and non-migrating conspecific species. For a better understanding of the role of bats in the circulation of these viral zoonoses, epidemiologists must pay attention to some of their biologic properties which are not fully documented, like their extreme longevity, their diet, the population size and the particular densities observed in species with crowded roosting behavior, the population structure and migrations, the hibernation permitting overwintering of viruses, their particular innate and acquired immune response, probably related at least partially to their ability to fly, allowing persistent virus infections and preventing immunopathological consequences, etc. It is also necessary to get a better knowledge of the interactions between bats and ecologic changes induced by man and to attentively follow bat populations and their viruses through surveillance networks involving human and veterinary physicians, specialists of wild fauna, ecologists, etc. in order to understand the mechanisms of disease emergence, to try to foresee and, perhaps, to prevent viral emergences beforehand. Finally, a more fundamental research about immune mechanisms developed in viral infections is essential to reveal the reasons why Chiroptera are so efficient reservoir hosts. Clearly, a great deal of additional work is needed to document the roles of bats in the natural history of viruses.

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Correspondence to F. Rodhain.

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Rodhain, F. Chauves-souris et virus : des relations complexes. Bull. Soc. Pathol. Exot. 108, 272–289 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13149-015-0448-z

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Mots clés

  • Chiroptères
  • Chauves-souris
  • Virus
  • Zoonoses virales
  • Homme
  • Épidémiologie
  • Tolérance immunitaire
  • Épidémies émergentes

Keywords

  • Chiroptera
  • Bats
  • Virus
  • Viral zoonoses
  • Man
  • Epidemiology
  • Immune evasion and Virus persistence
  • Emerging epidemics