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EMBO Mol Med. 2015 Jan;7(1):17-23. doi: 10.15252/emmm.201404792.

Investigating the zoonotic origin of the West African Ebola epidemic.

Author information

1
Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
2
Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic Microorganisms, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
3
Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic Microorganisms, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany Centre for Biological Threats and Special Pathogens, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
4
Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
5
Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Leipzig, Germany.
6
Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
7
Centre for Biological Threats and Special Pathogens, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
8
Eidolon ekologi, Kållered, Sweden.
9
Institute of Virology, Philipps-University Marburg, Marburg, Germany.
10
Laboratoire National d'Appui au Développement Agricole, Laboratoire Central de la Pathologie Animal, Bingerville, Côte d'Ivoire.
11
Research Center for the Development and Teaching Hospital, Université Alassane Ouattara de Bouake, Bouake, Côte d'Ivoire.
12
Institute of Experimental Ecology, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.
13
Department of Migration and Immuno-Ecology, Vogelwarte Radolfzell, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany Zoological Institute, TU Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany.
14
Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic Microorganisms, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
15
Epidemiology of Highly Pathogenic Microorganisms, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany LeendertzF@rki.de.

Abstract

The severe Ebola virus disease epidemic occurring in West Africa stems from a single zoonotic transmission event to a 2-year-old boy in Meliandou, Guinea. We investigated the zoonotic origins of the epidemic using wildlife surveys, interviews, and molecular analyses of bat and environmental samples. We found no evidence for a concurrent outbreak in larger wildlife. Exposure to fruit bats is common in the region, but the index case may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of insectivorous free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus). Bats in this family have previously been discussed as potential sources for Ebola virus outbreaks, and experimental data have shown that this species can survive experimental infection. These analyses expand the range of possible Ebola virus sources to include insectivorous bats and reiterate the importance of broader sampling efforts for understanding Ebola virus ecology.

KEYWORDS:

Ebola; West Africa; bat; wildlife; zoonosis

PMID:
25550396
PMCID:
PMC4309665
DOI:
10.15252/emmm.201404792
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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