The Marburg virus, like its fearsome cousin Ebola, belongs to the Filoviridae family. It carries the name of the German town where it was first detected in 1967, after a mysterious epidemic had hit employees of the Behring laboratory. The workers had been contaminated as they took organ samples from green monkeys imported from Uganda. Up to the end of the 20th Century, rare cases of violent haemorrhagic fever attack linked to Marburg virus were subsequently registered, essentially in East Africa: (in Kenya, Zimbabwe, parts of South Africa). However, in 1998, a more extensive epidemic affected 149 people near Durba, a town in the North-East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). More than 80% of these people succumbed to the haemorrhagic fever the virus caused. In 2005, a second epidemic that broke out in Angola infected over 252 people, 227 of whom died - a mortality rate of nearly 90%. That was the most severe epidemic of Marburg haemorrhagic fever (MHF) known to date.
Between 2005 and 2006, scientists from IRD working in conjunction with CIRMF and CDC conducted a research campaign with the aim of detecting Ebola virus among species of fruit bat (mammals of the order Chiroptera). In the context of this study, five trapping sites were set up in the tropical rainforest of Gabon and the North-West of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 1138 specimens of fruit bat collected belong to 10 different species. At the same time, Angola, about 800 km from the study area, experienced a severe outbreak of MHF. However, the natural reservoir of this virus was still unknown. In addition to the search for Ebola in each of the chiropteran specimens caught, the researchers looked for the presence of its cousin in their tissues. A series of analyses were performed on the bats captured: detection of viral RNA in the liver and spleen by various methods of nucleotide amplification; a search for Marburg virus-specific antibodies in the blood; phylogenetic characterization
|Contact: Gregory Flechet|
Institut de Recherche Pour le Dveloppement