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Fruit Bat Species May Be Reservoir for Marburg Virus

Common species of African bat offers insight into transmission of the deadly disease

THURSDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- The Marburg virus has been detected in a common species of African fruit bat, offering clues as to the transmission of the virus, according to a report published online in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Jonathan S. Towner, Ph.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues tested over 1,100 bats from 10 species found in five locations in Gabon and northwest Republic of Congo. They found only one species, Rousettus aegyptiacus, tested positive for Marburg. The samples detected had a common genetic lineage that was distinct from that found in human and other animal Marburg virus sequences.

"The serological data, combined with the polymerase chain reaction data, are suggestive that these bats may represent a bonafide reservoir species. However, we cannot rule out periodic contact by the bats with an as yet unnamed reservoir," the authors write.

Marburg virus, related to the Ebola virus, has caused outbreaks in humans and primates, most recently in sub-Saharan Africa and has a mortality rate of 80 to 90 percent. There is no vaccine against the virus and no treatment for Marburg hemorrhagic fever.

"From a public health perspective, this discovery offers us new insight into the transmission of Marburg virus and potentially other filoviruses," Towner noted in a statement.

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