These authors contributed equally to this work
Investigating the zoonotic origin of the West African Ebola epidemic
Version of Record online: 30 DEC 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
EMBO Molecular Medicine
Volume 7, Issue 1, pages 17–23, January 2015
How to Cite
EMBO Mol Med (2015) 7: 17–23
- Issue online: 5 JAN 2015
- Version of Record online: 30 DEC 2014
- Manuscript Revised: 10 DEC 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 10 DEC 2014
- Manuscript Received: 27 OCT 2014
- Robert Koch-Institute
- Wild Chimpanzee Foundation Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire
- NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Grant Number: DGE-1142336
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research's Systems Biology Training Program
- NSERC Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
- German Academic Exchange Service. Grant Number: DAAD-91525837-57048249
- German Research Foundation. Grant Number: DFG BO3790/1-1
- Deutsche Zentrum für Infektionsforschung (DZIF). Grant Numbers: DFG LE1818/4-1, LE1813/7-1, KL2521/1-1
- West Africa;
The severe Ebola virus disease epidemic occurring in West Africa stems from a single zoonotic transmission event to a 2-year-old boy in Meliandou, Guinea. We investigated the zoonotic origins of the epidemic using wildlife surveys, interviews, and molecular analyses of bat and environmental samples. We found no evidence for a concurrent outbreak in larger wildlife. Exposure to fruit bats is common in the region, but the index case may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of insectivorous free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus). Bats in this family have previously been discussed as potential sources for Ebola virus outbreaks, and experimental data have shown that this species can survive experimental infection. These analyses expand the range of possible Ebola virus sources to include insectivorous bats and reiterate the importance of broader sampling efforts for understanding Ebola virus ecology.
The severe Ebola virus disease epidemic occurring in West Africa likely stems from a single zoonotic transmission event involving a 2-year-old boy in Meliandou, Guinea, who might have been infected by hunting or playing with insectivorous free-tailed bats living in a nearby hollow tree.
- Monitoring data show that larger wildlife did not experience a recent decline and is therefore unlikely to have served as the source for the Ebola virus disease epidemic in West Africa.
- Fruit bat hunting and butchering are common activities in southern Guinea, therefore facilitating direct human contact.
- Children are also exposed to insectivorous bats through hunting in and around villages.
- No large colony of fruit bats exists in or nearby the index village (Meliandou).
- The 2-year-old index case may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of insectivorous free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus).