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The epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was caused by a newly emerged coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Bats of several species in southern People's Republic of China harbor SARS-like CoVs and may be reservoir hosts for them. To determine whether bats in North America also harbor coronaviruses, we used reverse transcription-PCR to detect coronavirus RNA in bats. We found coronavirus RNA in 6 of 28 fecal specimens from bats of 2 of 7 species tested. The prevalence of viral RNA shedding was high: 17% in Eptesicus fuscus and 50% in Myotis occultus. Sequence analysis of a 440-bp amplicon in gene 1b showed that these Rocky Mountain bat coronaviruses formed 3 clusters in phylogenetic group 1 that were distinct from group 1 coronaviruses of Asian bats. Because of the potential for bat coronaviruses to cause disease in humans and animals, further surveillance and characterization of bat coronaviruses in North America are needed.
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Detection of group 1 coronaviruses in bats in North America