Researchers from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) discovered a new species of Ebola virus that is carried by at least two species of bats.
The new Ebola virus found by the team of PREDICT Ebola Host Project of USAID is named Bombali virus and joins the five already-known Ebola virus species. Although the virus is capable of infecting humans, it’s unclear if it would cause disease. The outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia during 2013 and 2016 was caused by the Zaire virus that infected over 28,000 people and resulted in 11,325 deaths. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo in early August this year recorded Ebola outbreak caused by the Zaire virus.
Several researches have not yet recognized the reservoir that facilitates the habitat and reproduction of the virus. Although, bats are considered the primary reservoir species, the complete Ebola virus genome has not yet been isolated and recovered from bats. The PREDICT Ebola Host Project operates to identify Ebola viruses in their host species before the virus spreads to humans. The project collected biological samples from 535 animals in Sierra Leone — 244 bats, 46 rodents, 240 dogs and five cats — and tested them for the presence of Ebola viruses. The researchers found that only four samples of bats captured inside three human dwellings within 12 miles of one another, where livestock and crops were being raised for local consumption, tested positive for an Ebola virus. Three of the bats were classified as Chaerephon pumilus, also known as little free-tailed bats and one was Mops condylurus, also known as an Angolan free-tailed bat. Both species are widely distributed across Africa and often roost together. The researchers found a different virus compared to previously identified Ebola viruses when the genome of the bat-dwelling Ebola virus was sequenced. The new species was named Bombali virus after the Bombali district of Sierra Leone, where it was initially found. The research was published in the journal Nature Microbiology on August 27, 2018.