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CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives. Protecting People. Saving Money Through Prevention. Learn More About How CDC Works For You…

CDC Scientists Identify Presence of Marburg Virus in African Fruit Bats

Published: August 23, 2007

Photo: Sabrina Harper, Dominique Wilkins, Quanza Brooks-Griffin, Maurice Madden
CDC Researchers find possible animal source for Marburg virus. (Photo by WHO)

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their collaborators have announced that they have successfully identified the presence of Marburg virus in a common species of African fruit bat (R. aegyptiacus). The scientific publication, released on Wednesday, August 22, in the open-access journal PLoS ONE (, describes an investigation in the Central African countries of Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Marburg hemorrhagic fever is a severe and highly fatal disease caused by a virus from the same family as the one that causes Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Both diseases are rare, but can cause dramatic outbreaks with high fatality. There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine.

The natural reservoir for Marburg virus has been the cause of much speculation and scientific investigation. Bats have been suspected of carrying the virus, but until now, virus infection in bats had not been documented. It is also the first study to document the existence of Marburg virus in the Central African country of Gabon.

Photo: Dr. Brian Amman  Photo: Jonathan Towner
Left: Dr. Brian Amman, medical ecologist for the CDC Special Pathogens Branch. Right: Dr. Jonathan Towner, lead author of the publication, shown here testing bats for the presence of Marburg virus infection. (Photos by WHO)

This paper coincides with an ongoing investigation of Marburg infection among miners in a lead and gold mine in Uganda. The mine, located about 300km from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, provides dwelling for at least two bat species. One is the African fruit bat (R. aegyptiacus), identified in the publication as a potential Marburg carrier.

CDC deployed a six-person team to Uganda in early August to join colleagues from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa, and the World Health Organization, to investigate the source of the Marburg infection. The team has also been conducting studies to determine if other bat species might also carry the virus.

To learn more about Marburg virus please visit: Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever.

Page last updated: August 23, 2007
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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