New type of filovirus, related to Ebola, discovered among bats in China

The new virus, named the Mengla virus, was discovered among bats in Mengla County, Yunnan Province

The Rousettus leschenaultii species of Fruit Bat

The Rousettus leschenaultii species of Fruit Bat (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Scientists at a research institute in Singapore, in collaboration with Duke University, have discovered bats in China that are carriers of a new genus of filovirus, called the Měnglà virus, which is closely related to the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

Rousettus bats in Yunnan Province, China, are reportedly carrying the Měnglà virus. There are fears that the bat-borne pathogen may be capable of infecting people.

If the virus is able to infect humans, it would likely result in similar symptoms as its close relatives, which cause “severe and often fatal fever diseases in humans by affecting many organs and damaging blood vessels,” according to the study.

The virus was named after Měnglà County of Yunnan Province, where the virus-infected bats were discovered.

The findings were outlined in a research article by Wang Lin-Fa (王林發), the Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme at Duke- NUS Medical School in Singapore, published this month in Nature Microbiology.

Wang emphasizes that bat-borne viruses can be especially devastating to human populations and animal populations if adequate preventative measures are not taken.

"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."

The article reports that the new virus is classed as a dianlovirus within the filovirus group, and there may be more than one strain waiting to be discovered.

Genetically, the Měnglà virus is distinct, but it “sits in between Ebola virus and Marburg virus on the evolutionary tree,” and uses the same molecular receptor protein, NPC1, to infect and damage host cells.

Other varieties of the Rousettus genus of fruit bats have been found to be carriers of the Ebola virus, although they often show no symptoms associated with the disease.

Currently, the Měnglà virus has only been observed in the bats. Researchers are now conducting studies to test its potential to spread to other species. The full report on the findings can be found at Science Daily.