Saturday, January 10, 2015

Origins of Ebola

The evidence for bats as the reservoir of Ebola, though not definitive, is mounting.  According to a journal article published last week in EMBO Molecular Medicine, insect-eating bats are a possible reservoir for the virus.  While bats have long been suspected as the reservoir of Ebola, insect-eating bats have rarely been suggested as the reservoir; many researchers suspect that fruit-eating bats are the reservoir.  However, fruit-eating bats are not found extensively in the M√©liandou region of Guinea - where the current outbreak started.  In contrast, the insect-eating bat, Mops condylurus, is found frequently in this region in hollow trees.  Children in Guinea often target these bats for consumption. Moreover, in the village where the outbreak occurred, the index case - a small boy - was known to play around a big hollow tree known to house many of these bats.  Of course, all the evidence so far has been observational and a lot more research must be done to detect the true reservoir of Ebola. Doing so is easier said than done; while antibodies for Ebola have been isolated in this species of bat, the live virus has never been isolated and cultured from it (or any animal).  Still, such research offers hope that we will soon find the reservoir of Ebola.

--Andrew Duong

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