|Posted on December 21, 2021 at 7:00 AM|
Bats are a key reservoir of coronaviruses (CoVs), including the agent of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the recent deadly viral pneumonia pandemic. However, understanding how bats can harbor several microorganisms without developing illnesses is still a matter under discussion. Viruses and other pathogens are often studied as stand-alone entities, despite that, in nature, they mostly live in multispecies associations called biofilms-both externally and within the host.
Microorganisms in biofilms are enclosed by an extracellular matrix that confers protection and improves survival. Previous studies have shown that viruses can secondarily colonize preexisting biofilms, and viral biofilms have also been described. In this review, we raise the perspective that CoVs can persistently infect bats due to their association with biofilm structures. This phenomenon potentially provides an optimal environment for nonpathogenic and well-adapted viruses to interact with the host, as well as for viral recombination. Biofilms can also enhance virion viability in extracellular environments, such as on fomites and in aquatic sediments, allowing viral persistence and dissemination.
Moreover, understanding the biofilm lifestyle of CoVs in reservoirs might contribute to explaining several burning questions as to persistence and transmissibility of highly pathogenic emerging CoVs.
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