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Newly discovered Ebolavirus may not cause severe disease in humans

April 24, 2019

Researchers from the University of Kent's School of Biosciences have provided evidence that a newly discovered Ebolavirus may not be as deadly as other species to humans.

The new Bombali virus was discovered in bats in Sierra Leone and has also now been reported in bats in Kenya. To date, it was unclear whether the Bombali virus may be pathogenic to humans.

Dr Mark Wass and Professor Martin Michaelis developed a computational approach to compare the amino acid sequences of virus proteins to identify positions that determine whether a virus causes disease in humans.

Their findings showed that certain positions in the VP24 protein of the Bombali virus are identical to the Reston virus, another member of the Ebolavirus family that is not pathogenic in humans. This is consistent with the origin of the Bombali virus, which was isolated from fruit bats that were cohabitating with humans in houses and other populated areas. Although this makes human contact highly likely, no disease outbreaks have been reported

Dr Wass said: 'Based on our findings, it does not seem likely that the Bombali virus causes severe disease in humans. However, we need to be careful as we know that a few mutations may change this and result in another Ebolavirus that poses a threat to humans. Hence, Bombali virus evolution should be carefully monitored.'

The study Is the Bombali virus pathogenic in humans? (Henry Martell, Stuart Masterson, Jake McGreig, Martin Michaelis, Mark Wass - University of Kent) is published in the journal Bioinformatics. See: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btz267
-end-
For more information or interview requests contact Martin Herrema at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 816768
Email: M.J.Herrema@kent.ac.uk
News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news
University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent

Notes to editors:

Among the members of the Ebolavirus family are some of the most deadly viruses such as the Ebola virus and the Sudan virus. The recent West African Ebola virus outbreak, which caused more than 11,000 deaths between 2013 and 2016 in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, has been the biggest outbreak of Ebolaviruses in humans yet. Currently, the second largest Ebola virus outbreak is ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has resulted in 1,146 cases and 721 deaths to date.

University of Kent

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