The coevolutionary mosaic of bat betacoronavirus emergence risk

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Norma Forero, Renata L. Muylaert, Stephanie N. Seifert, Gregory Albery, Daniel Becker, Colin J. Carlson, Timothée Poisot 


Pathogen evolution is one of the least predictable components of disease emergence, particularly in nature. Here, building on principles established by the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution, we develop a quantitative, spatially-explicit framework for mapping the evolutionary risk of viral emergence. Driven by interest in diseases like SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, we examine the global biogeography of bat-origin betacoronaviruses, and find that coevolutionary principles suggest geographies of risk that are distinct from the hotspots and coldspots of host richness. Further, our framework helps explain patterns like a unique pool of merbecoviruses in the Neotropics, a recently-discovered lineage of divergent nobecoviruses in Madagascar, and--most importantly--hotspots of diversification in southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East that correspond to the site of previous zoonotic emergence events. Our framework may help identify hotspots of future risk that have also been previously overlooked, like west Africa and the Indian subcontinent, and may more broadly help researchers understand how host ecology shapes the evolution and diversity of pandemic threats.



Biodiversity, Bioinformatics, Biology, Biotechnology, Cell and Developmental Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Immunology and Infectious Disease, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Other Life Sciences


bats, betacoronavirus, disease ecology, geographic mosaic theory of coevolution, phylogenetic diversity, SARS-CoV-2, viral sharing


Published: 2022-07-02 03:04


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International