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article imageEbola point of origin traced to bats

By Tim Sandle     Jan 4, 2015 in Science
Conakry - The Ebola epidemic in West Africa may have been triggered by bats in Guinea, according to a new research paper. However, other scientists question this theory due to a lack of evidence.
The source of the Ebola virus affecting West Africa remains unknown. At present researchers can only estimate likely points of origin. As part of this speculative process, a large international team of scientists suggest that the epidemic may have jumped from bats to humans near a small Guinean village.
The researchers are basing this on reports that there is a hollow Cola tree that harbored thousands of Angolan free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus) near Meliandou. This is the small village — a hamlet of 31 houses — that was home to a two-year-old boy who died from Ebola in December 2013 (the so-called “patient zero.”) There is, however, no direct evidence. Either by coincidence or as a result of that public warning, that tree was burnt down.
Despite any direct evidence, the scientists behind the proposal suggest that the toddler could have picked up the virus from bats by playing in or near the Cola tree, which was burnt before his team had a chance to investigate it.
The research team think that if the know the reservoir and then understand the dynamics of the reservoir, this will aid future mobilization campaigns or education campaigns. It could also help to prevent a future Ebola epidemic from happening again. Certainly the impact has been considerable. The economic impact of Ebola on the affected states is considerable. With the internal economy, a combination of cases of infection and a fear of the virus appear to have had an equivalent impact to that of an environmental disaster.
Not all scientists agree. For example, wildlife biologist Peter Walsh of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. told Science that the results implicating bats are interesting. Nonetheless, the evidence is not robust enough to lay the blame for starting the Ebola epidemic. Looking for an animal-to-human point of transmission is a very difficult task.
An alternative theory is a different type of bat to the Angolan free-tailed bats. A known reservoir of Ebola is the fruit bat (Epomophorus wahlbergi), a widespread tropical African species that in some countries is killed for food. However, with the current outbreak, no direct link has been established.
The new theory is proposed by Fabian Leendertz, an epidemiologist at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. The findings have been published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. The research is simply titled “Where Does Ebola Come From?”
More about Ebola, Bats, Guinea, West africa, Virus
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