The aim of our project is to establish a cell culture model that enables the isolation of viruses from bats and the characterisation of their replication properties. Since genomic viral RNA has been detected very frequently in faecal samples, differentiated intestinal epithelial cells appear to be promising target cells. This cell type can be used for experimental purposes in the form of intestinal organoid cultures. In our project, organoids from the intestines of bats are to be established. Animals of the species Carollia perspicillata, which are kept at our university for other experimental purposes, serve as organ donors. This bat species is also known to be a natural host for bat influenza viruses. Such viruses are available in recombinant form at the University of Freiburg and are being used in collaboration with the Martin Schwemmle research group to analyse replication properties in intestinal organoid cultures.
The results of this pilot project can subsequently be used to establish organoid cultures from other bats, especially those that are considered to be hosts for SARS coronaviruses (e.g. the genus Rhinolophus). Furthermore, such cell cultures can be generated from potential intermediate hosts (e.g. animals of the genera Paguma, Viverra). This makes it possible to experimentally analyse the zoonotic potential of SARS coronaviruses.
Prof. Dr. Georg Herrler
University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover
+49 (0) 511 953 8857