Trends in Bacterial Pathogens of Bats: Global Distribution and Knowledge Gaps

Tamara Szentivanyi, Clifton McKee, Gareth Jones, Jeffrey T. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Bats have received considerable recent attention for infectious disease research because of their potential to host and transmit viruses, including Ebola, Hendra, Nipah, and multiple coronaviruses. Tese pathogens are occasionally transmitted from bats to wildlife, livestock, and to humans, directly or through other bridging (intermediate) hosts. Due to their public health relevance, zoonotic viruses are a primary focus of research attention. In contrast, other emerging pathogens of bats, such as bacteria, are vastly understudied despite their ubiquity and diversity. Here, we describe the currently known host ranges and geographic distributional patterns of potentially zoonotic bacterial genera in bats, using published presence-absence data of pathogen occurrence. We identify apparent gaps in our understanding of the distribution of these pathogens on a global scale. Te most frequently detected bacterial genera in bats are Bartonella, Leptospira, and Mycoplasma. However, a wide variety of other potentially zoonotic bacterial genera are also occasionally found in bats, such as Anaplasma, Brucella, Borrelia, Coxiella, Ehrlichia, Francisella, Neorickettsia, and Rickettsia. Te bat families Phyllostomidae, Vespertilionidae, and Pteropodidae are most frequently reported as hosts of bacterial pathogens; however, the presence of at least one bacterial genus was confirmed in all 15 bat families tested. On a spatial scale, molecular diagnostics of samples from 58 countries and four overseas departments and island states (French Guiana, Mayotte, New Caledonia, and Réunion Island) reported testing for at least one bacterial pathogen in bats. We also identified geographical areas that have been mostly neglected during bacterial pathogen research in bats, such as the Afrotropical region and Southern Asia. Current knowledge on the distribution of potentially zoonotic bacterial genera in bats is strongly biased by research effort towards certain taxonomic groups and geographic regions. Identifying these biases can guide future surveillance efforts, contributing to a better understanding of the ecoepidemiology of zoonotic pathogens in bats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9285855
JournalTransboundary and Emerging Diseases
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Veterinary


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