After a five-year search in the jungles of Africa, an international team of virus hunters has identified a fruit bat that may be the natural host for the Ebola and Marburg viruses, two of the world's most lethal infectious diseases.
The study, accepted for publication in the open-access journal BioMed Central, was based on blood tests on more than 2,000 bats in Gabon and the Republic of Congo. Tests were conducted from 2003 to 2008.
Of all the bats sampled in significant numbers, only specimens of the cave-roosting Egyptian fruit bat, or Rousettus aegyptiacus, were found to harbor antibodies against both Marburg and Ebola, the authors wrote, suggesting that this species may be a natural host of both viruses.
Ebola and Marburg both cause cause highly lethal hemorrhagic fevers in humans.