Bats in Sierra Leone Carry Marburg Virus
Bats in Sierra Leone Carry Marburg Virus

Bats in Sierra Leone Carry Marburg Virus

It’s the first time the deadly pathogen has been found in West Africa.

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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Dec 31, 2018

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For the first time, scientists have detected Marburg virus in bats in West Africa. Earlier this month (December 20), they reported that five Egyptian rousette fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) sampled from three locations in Sierra Leone tested positive for the virus. No humans have been infected there, but the discovery is a warning for the community that the virus, an Ebola relative that is also highly deadly to humans, is present.

“We have known for a long time that rousette bats, which carry Marburg virus in other parts of Africa, also live in West Africa. So it’s not surprising that we’d find the virus in bats there,” Jonathan Towner, an ecologist who led a team from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says in a press release

The discovery was part of surveillance programs by the CDC and...

See “Why Bats Make Such Good Viral Hosts

The last human outbreak of Marburg was in 2017 in Uganda. According to the CDC, the biggest outbreak was in 2005 in Angola, in which 90 percent of the 252 people infected died. Two of the viral strains from the Sierra Leone bats are similar to the Angolan strain.

“That the discovery was made in bats before the recognition of any known human illnesses or deaths is exactly what PREDICT’s One Health approach to disease surveillance and capacity building are designed to do,” says Brian Bird of UCD who is global lead for Sierra Leone and multi-country Ebola operations for PREDICT-USAID, in the press release.

See “Predicting Future Zoonotic Disease Outbreaks

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Bats in Sierra Leone Carry Marburg Virus

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