Background: Zaire ebolavirus was responsible for 2 outbreaks in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 1976 and 1995. The virus reemerged in DRC 12 years later, causing 2 successive outbreaks in the Luebo region, Kasai Occidental province, in 2007 and 2008.
Methods: Viruses of each outbreak were isolated and the full-length genomes were characterized. Phylogenetic analysis was then undertaken to characterize the relationships with previously described viruses.
Results: The 2 Luebo viruses are nearly identical but are not related to lineage A viruses known in DRC or to descendants of the lineage B viruses encountered in the Gabon-Republic of the Congo area, with which they do, however, share a common ancestor.
Conclusions: Our findings strongly suggest that the Luebo 2007 outbreak did not result from viral spread from previously identified foci but from an independent viral emergence. The previously identified epidemiological link with migratory bat species known to carry Zaire ebolavirus RNA support the hypothesis of viral spillover from this widely dispersed reservoir. The high level of similarity between the Luebo2007 and Luebo2008 viruses suggests that local wildlife populations (most likely bats) became infected and allowed local viral persistence and reemergence from year to year.