A new genus of Filovirus identified from Rousettus bat in China by the combined work of researchers from China and Singapore. These pathogenic viruses, especially Ebola virus and Marburg virus pose a threat to animal and human health by causing severe and fatal fever diseases by damaging many blood vessels and organs.
The research published in the journal Nature Microbiology. "Studying the genetic diversity and geographic distribution of bat-borne filoviruses is very important for risk assessment and outbreak prevention as this type of infectious disease can affect the general public without warning with devastating consequences," said Professor Wang Lin-Fa, Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme at Duke- NUS Medical School, Singapore, and a senior author of the study.
The researchers discovered the new virus while analysing the diversity of filoviruses in Rousettus bats. They named it the Mengla virus because it was discovered in Megla County, Yunnan Province, China. They detected the virus from a bat sample and conducted sequencing and functional characterization studies.
The researchers tested the Mengla virus in cell lines from various animal species and found that, like other filoviruses, it poses a potential risk of interspecies transmission.
The results confirmed that the Mengla virus is evolutionarily closely related to Ebola virus and Marburg virus and shares several important functional similarities with them. For example, the genome organisation of the Mengla virus is consistent with other filoviruses, coding for seven genes. The Mengla virus also uses the same molecular receptor, a protein called NPC1, as Ebola virus and Marburg virus to gain entry into cells and cause infection.
"The early identification of the filovirus from Rousettus bats by Prof Wang and researchers in China is one of the many strong research collaborations the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Program at Duke-NUS engages in," noted Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean of Research, Duke-NUS Medical School. "With globalization, it is important to identify and assess the risk of potential infectious disease outbreaks and, from it, develop effective controls strategies and treatments."
At present, the virus has only been identified in Rousettus bats in China. Further tests will be conducted to assess the risk of the virus spreading to other species.