Scientists have detected the Marburg virus in fruit bats in Sierra Leone, marking the first time the deadly virus has been found in West Africa. Eleven Egyptian rousette bats tested positive for active Marburg virus infection. Research teams caught bats separately in three health districts.
The presence of the Marburg virus, a relative close to the Ebola virus that also causes hemorrhagic disease in people, was detected before the reported cases of human disease in Sierra Leone. However, the presence of the virus in bats means that people who live nearby may be at risk of becoming infected. No outbreaks have been reported to date.
The findings, based on PCR, antibody and virus isolation data, were officially published today in the journal. Nature Communications. Preliminary results were announced in early December 2018 to ensure rapid notification to the citizens of Sierra Leone and the international health community.
The document highlights the value of collaborating with the government and key stakeholders in the human, animal and environmental sectors to involve communities at risk about the discovery, address health concerns and communicate risk reduction strategies before they occur. The recognized side effects.
The Marburg virus was detected by projects led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USAID-funded PREDICT project and directed by the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Njala, Sierra Leone and the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone. .
Finding the Marburg virus in bats in Sierra Leone before any known case in people is a great success, since public health officials and doctors can now include the Marburg virus among the possible causes when diagnosing cases of hemorrhagic fever in the region “.
Tracey Goldstein, co-principal investigator and pathogen detection leader for the UC Davis One Health Institute PREDICT project
Angolan strains detected in bats for the first time
To date, 12 outbreaks of the Marburg virus have been recorded, the most recent in Uganda in 2017. The largest and deadliest outbreak occurred in Angola in 2005, where 227 people died. Five of the new strains identified among Marburg-positive bats in Sierra Leone were genetically similar to the strain that caused the outbreak in Angola. This is the first time scientists detect these Angolan strains in bats.
The virus-positive bats were all Egyptian rousette bats, the known reservoir for the Marburg virus, which feeds primarily on fruit. Infected bats eliminate the virus in your saliva, urine and feces. It is known that Egyptian rousette bats bite fruits, urinate and defecate where they eat, potentially contaminating fruits or other food sources consumed by other animals or people, especially children. These bats sometimes also serve as a food source for local populations. People can be exposed to the Marburg virus through bat bites when they are caught.
Risk of contagion reduction through community outreach, risk reduction training
Following the announcement of the preliminary findings by the government of Sierra Leone, the PREDICT team worked with government partners, universities and other key stakeholders to develop and implement evidence-based public health messages at the national community levels , district and local in Sierra Leone.
Researchers and government officials met with members of the community to present their findings, answer questions about the Marburg virus and address how to reduce the risk of exposure to people and live safely with bats. As an additional measure of public preparation at the national level, Marburg virus disease has been included in test regimens in national laboratories in Sierra Leone.
“PREDICT opened the window to show that there is beyond Ebola and demonstrated the need for an association long before outbreaks develop,” said Amara Jambai, vice minister of health at Sierra Leone.
Scientists emphasize that people should not attempt to kill or eradicate bats in response to the discovery. Bats play important ecological and agricultural roles. Fruit bats pollinate important crops, and bats that eat insects eat thousands of insects every night, including mosquitoes, which helps control pests that spread disease and damage crops. Killing and coming into direct contact with bats can actually increase the risk of virus transmission, not stop it.
Find viruses before they find us
The PREDICT team at UC Davis / University of Makeni and the team led by CDC / Njala University began working in Sierra Leone in 2016 after the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Each of them sought to discover the Ebola reservoir, the animal that helps keep the virus in nature by spreading it without getting sick.
This discovery of Marburg, the discovery by the PREDICT team of the sixth Ebola virus – Bombali virus – in Angola and small free-tailed bats in Sierra Leone, and its subsequent discovery of the Bombali virus in Angolan free-tailed bats in Guinea illustrate the Strengths and mission. of the USAID PREDICT project, which consists of finding viruses before they spread to humans and become epidemics.
“More than a year ago, we worked with our colleagues from the Sierra Leone government to inform people across the country as quickly as possible about this new health risk and to remind people that they should not harm or get in touch. with bats, “said Brian Bird of UC Davis. One Health Institute and world leader for Sierra Leone and Ebola operations in several countries for PREDICT-USAID. “I am very proud of that work and of our teams now that this full report is available.”
University of California – Davis