Ebolavirus and other filoviruses

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2007;315:363-87. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-70962-6_15.


Since Ebola fever emerged in Central Africa in 1976, a number of studies have been undertaken to investigate its natural history and to characterize its transmission from a hypothetical reservoir host(s) to humans. This research has comprised investigations on a variety of animals and their characterization as intermediate, incidental, amplifying, reservoir, or vector hosts. A viral transmission chain was recently unveiled after a long absence of epidemic Ebola fever. Animal trapping missions were carried out in the Central African rain forest in an area where several epidemics and epizootics had occurred between 2001 and 2005. Among the various animals captured and analyzed, three species of fruit bats (suborder Megachiroptera) were found asymptomatically and naturally infected with Ebola virus: Hypsignathus monstrosus (hammer-headed fruit beats), Epomops franqueti (singing fruit bats), and Myonycteris torquata (little collared fruit bats). From experimental data, serological studies and virus genetic analysis, these findings confirm the importance of these bat species as potential reservoir species of Ebola virus in Central Africa. While feeding bats drop partially eaten fruit and masticated fruit pulp (spats) to the ground, possibly promoting indirect transmission of Ebola virus to certain ground dwelling mammals, if virus is being shed in saliva by chronically and asymptomatically infected bats. Great apes and forest duikers are particularly sensitive to lethal Ebola virus infection. These terrestrial mammals feed on fallen fruits and possibly spats, suggesting a chain of events leading to Ebola virus spillover to these incidental hosts. This chain of events may occur sporadically at different sites and times depending on a combination of the phenology of fruit production by different trees, animal behavior, and various, but as yet still unknown environmental factors, which could include drought. During the reproductive period, infected body fluid can also be shed in the environment and present a potential risk for indirect transmission to other vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary*
  • Ebolavirus
  • Filoviridae / pathogenicity
  • Filoviridae Infections / epidemiology
  • Filoviridae Infections / transmission
  • Filoviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Filoviridae Infections / virology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / transmission
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / veterinary*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / virology
  • Humans
  • Primates / virology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Species Specificity
  • Zoonoses