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Insights into the origins of the West African Ebola epidemic

In April 2014, shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zaire Ebolavirus responsible for the epidemic in Guinea, scientists from the Robert Koch Institute and others travelled to the affected regions in order to investigate the animal origins of the outbreak. Their findings, which are now being published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, confirm bats as possible reservoir of the Ebola virus.


Earlier outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in central Africa have been associated with large die-offs in great apes and duikers. In Guinea, however, the researchers did not observe any decline in these wildlife populations. The researchers conclude that the first Ebola case in Guinea, a two-year-old from the village of Meliandou, probably came into contact with the virus through bats. The children of the village used to play around a hollow tree. Although the tree had accidentally burnt before the researchers arrived, they were able to identify the DNA of a bat species, Mops condylurus, in soil and ash samples. This species has already been discussed as a possible reservoir in earlier Ebola outbreaks in central Africa; it has also been shown to survive experimental infections with the Ebola virus. The researchers state that further studies are urgently needed to understand the role of Mops condylurus and other bat species in Ebola virus circulation and transmission.

Date: 30.12.2014

Topic

German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults

Logo of the German Health Study for Adults (DEGS). Source: © RKI

The Robert Koch-Institute regularly conducts and publishes the “German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Adults”, an on-going assessment and analysis of the health condition of the German adult population.

Tuberculosis

Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Scanning electron microscopy. Bar = 1 µm. Quelle: Gudrun Holland 2013/RKI

The Robert Koch Institute provides online information on tuberculosis.

International activities

Bacillus anthracis. Source: RKI

The Robert Koch Institute participates in large European research projects and co-operations in the fields of prevention of infections as well as health monitoring, for example REACT or EHES.

Measles

Measles virus. Colouration: Schnartendorff.  © Gelderblom/RKI

The RKI provides online information on measles.

Course offering on biological hazards

Electron microscope. Source: RKI

The Robert Koch Institute offers international courses and workshops on biological hazards.