Influenza A viruses (IAVs) continue to threaten animal and human health globally. Bats are asymptomatic reservoirs for many zoonotic viruses. Recent reports of two novel IAVs in fruit bats and serological evidence of avian influenza virus (AIV) H9 infection in frugivorous bats raise questions about the role of bats in IAV epidemiology. IAVs bind to sialic acid (SA) receptors on host cells, and it is widely believed that hosts expressing both SA α2,3-Gal and SA α2,6-Gal receptors could facilitate genetic reassortment of avian and human IAVs. We found abundant co-expression of both avian (SA α2,3-Gal) and human (SA α2,6-Gal) type SA receptors in little brown bats (LBBs) that were compatible with avian and human IAV binding. This first ever study of IAV receptors in a bat species suggest that LBBs, a widely-distributed bat species in North America, could potentially be co-infected with avian and human IAVs, facilitating the emergence of zoonotic strains.
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