Specific type of bat may be source of Ebola epidemic
Researchers at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin say that the source of the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 7,000 people in Africa appears to be the free-tailed insectivorous bats. Previously, officials believed that people eating fruit bats may have been the cause. But after interviewing residents of the village of Meliandou, where the Ebola epidemic began, researchers found that fruit bats were an unlikely source. The first victim was a two-year-old boy, who transmitted the virus to his three-year-old sister and pregnant mother, all of whom died. If ingestion of fruit bats was the cause, adults would have been infected before or at the same time as the boy. The researchers also discovered that the boy played near a hollow tree which contained a free-tailed bat colony.
Researchers inspected bats and other wildlife in Meliandou as well as neighboring forests and found that that particular species of bats was the most likely source of the Ebola epidemic. Large mammal populations close to Meliandou were also monitored and no evidence of a link to the Ebola outbreak was found.
The Ebola epidemic has affected tens of thousands of people and killed 7,588 people. Several new Ebola vaccines have shown promise in Africa.