Monrovia (DPA) – Researchers have discovered a very dangerous Ebola virus for the first time in a bat in West Africa.
Further research should reveal whether more bats are affected and how they spread the virus, the Liberian Ministry of Health said. "This information will help us to develop strategies to reduce the risk of further epidemics," the report said. Antibodies of the virus were previously detected in bats in the region.
The genome analysis showed a great deal of agreement with the so-called genome. the Zaire-Ebola virus, which caused a devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014/2015 with about 11,000 deaths, said virologist Simon Anthony of the Columbia University in New York City's discovery. "This is important because we did not know how a Western African epidemic arose," the analyst at the German news agency told Reuters. Now, more can be revealed about Ebola, including the question of how the virus will transmit to humans.
The finding has not yet been published in a well-known scientific publication since investigations are still ongoing. So far, only DNA of about a quarter of the samples of 4000 animals from Liberia has been analyzed, Anthony said. But, above all, it is important that the authorities in Liberia immediately warn the population against the killing and consumption of bats. The deadly effects of the Ebola virus are known. "It would be wrong to hold this discovery," said Anthony.
Experts have long believed that bats or fruit bats may be carriers of the virus, and thus the starting point of the epidemic. The pathogen was discovered in bats of Central Africa several years ago. The bat, now identified as a carrier in West Africa, is a long-winged bat of Miniopterus inflatus that lives in caves and is fed by insects.
However, in hundreds of other bats tested, the virus can not be confirmed. Thus, it may be that the animal is accidentally infected with another wild animal, the species usually is not a pathogen for the pathogen.
The Ministry of Health in Monrovia called on all Liberians to stop hunting, killing or eating bats. In Liberia, which according to the UN index is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, wildlife like bats often serves as food.
In Liberia, since the end of the West African epidemic – which particularly struck Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – no more Ebola disease is known. In the eastern part of Congo, there is currently the second most severe haemorrhagic fever. Already more than 700 people have been affected, nearly 450 people have died.
A protective Ebola vaccine developed after the West African epidemic show good results so far in the Congo. The virus is named after a river in the Congo. It was first discovered a few decades ago in what was then Zaire.