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Scientists find deadly Ebola virus for the first time in West African bat

Comfort Fayiah, 32, is sitting with her twins Faith and Mercy on September 1
9, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia, beside her. Comfort went into labor and had two girls on the floor in the courtyard of their church, who were assisted by a local doctor and a church mother because she could not get medical care; Most hospitals and clinics were closed to protect medical staff and other patients from Ebola. (Michel du Cille / The Washington Post)

Scientists have found evidence of the deadly Ebola virus in a bat in Liberia. The first time that the virus was found in a bat in West Africa, researchers and officials announced

A team of scientists working with the government of Liberia presented their findings in the Liberian capital Monrovia. The discovery represents a major step forward in understanding the origins of Ebola cases, one of the biggest unanswered questions related to these outbreaks, said Jonathan Epstein, a scientist from the EcoHealth Alliance, a worldwide nonprofit organization that is part of the research team.

Scientists did not report cases of Ebola in humans. Liberia has not reported any new cases since the end of the 2014-2016 epidemic that devastated West Africa. More than 11,000 people were killed in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Bats have long been suspected of being a natural reservoir or animal host. For Ebola, this means that the virus can live and grow in animals without harming them. But more than 40 years and more than two dozen outbreaks after Ebola emerged in Central Africa, researchers still do not know which animals or animals they carry, much less how they spread to humans.

"It was really difficult to get definitive evidence," Epstein said.

The results complement the evidence that bats could serve as a natural vehicle for Ebola, "scientists said. The team found genetic material from the virus and antibodies in the blood of the bat, indicating the animal's immune response to infection.

Yet Epstein and others warned that much more research is needed. The scientists tested samples of 150 Miniopterus inflatus bats in northeastern Liberia. But only one of these bats has been positive, Epstein said.

If this bat species, known as the big, long-fingered bat, turns out to be a natural host to the virus, scientists would expect to find more than one bat with antibodies to the virus, he said. It is also possible that the bat has become infected with another species of bats living in the same habitat.

The bats Miniopterus inflatus live in caves, mines and forests and eat insects. They are about the size of a small mouse and have a wingspan of about 12 inches.

Other experts said that more research would have to be done to know if this species of bats is a natural host.

"This is not infrequent information, but it is not entirely convincing for reservoir status," said Tom Ksiazek, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, who specializes in hemorrhagic fever viruses such as Ebola.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Ksiazek, "suggesting that the virus is naturally occurring in West African ecology."

Most experts say Ebola's natural animal host is a fruit bat, not one He said earlier evidence for Ebola in bats had all been in fruit bats, said Ksiazek Most notably, a tiny fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, is definitely the animal host of the Marburg virus , a close and equally terrifying cousin of Ebola.

Scientists write a research paper about their discovery The li However, Berian officials did not want to wait for publication, which can take a year before the information is published, Epstein said. Officials want to use the information to reinforce a public health message to Liberians to avoid bats to prevent possible infection. Bats can excrete the virus in their saliva, urine and faeces. The animals are also a common food source; Dealing with infected animals or eating infected animals can also spread the virus.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa began with a one-time transfer from an animal to a two-year-old boy in a remote village in Guinea, according to the World Health Organization. Scientists still do not know exactly how the child got infected, but the researchers say they probably had contact with wildlife. Before he fell ill, he was seen near a hollow tree heavily infested with bats. This is the conclusion of a WHO report on the 2015 epidemic.

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, part of the team, is working to determine if the virus found in the bat is exactly the same virus that caused the West African epidemic, and the current Ebola virus. Congo eruption, the second largest ever. According to the Congolese Ministry of Health, there were at least 713 cases and 439 deaths on Wednesday.

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