Caves as a reservoir for novel and reoccurring zoonoses - ecological monitoring and metagenomic analysis in real time
Project duration: 2021 - 2025
Keywords: Bulgaria, Caves, microbiome, bats, zoonoses, Balkan Peninsula, shotgun genome sequencing

Bats are an abundant and widely-distributed group of mammals, including many species playing important ecological roles in plant pollination or insect pests regulation. On the other hand, bats can also be a significant reservoir of viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens, some of which pose a potential risk of spread to humans, namely through mosquito-borne diseases transmission. With this project, we aim for the first time to deploy an innovative approach for characterising and monitoring emerging pathogens in bats, blood-sucking insects and their environment based on shotgun metagenome sequencing. We target a broad range of viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa from bat hosts, mosquitoes, cave water and soil samples to be able to assess the pathogenic potential of the identified species and develop predictive models for the emergence of new and repetitive infections.

  • National Museum of Natural History, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (NMNHS)
  • National Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases (NCIPD)

Contact person: Associate Prof. Nikolay Simov

Project website:

List with publications

Toshkova N, Dimitrova K, Langourov M, Zlatkov B, Bekchiev R, Ljubomirov T, Zielke E, Angelova R, Parvanova R, Simeonov Tz, Simov N (2023) Snacking during hibernation? Winter bat diet and prey availabilities, a case study from Iskar Gorge, Bulgaria. Historia Naturalis Bulgarica 45: 125-142. DOI: 10.48027/hnb.45.053

Hodzhev Y, Tsafarova B, Tolchkov V, Stoev P, Bekchiev R, Langourov M, Toshkova N, Deleva S, Nedyalkov N, Mikov O, Slavov G, Nenova R, Dochev D, Tsviatkov M, Simov N, Panaiotov S (2022) Identification of fungal taxa with pathogenic potential in soil samples from Perunika Glacier’s newly formed forefields - Livingston Island, Antarctica. ARPHA Conference Abstracts 5: e87573. DOI: 10.3897/aca.5.e87573