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EYE ON CHINA
New bat-borne virus related to Ebola
The virus may be capable of infecting many other species, including humans.

Bat-borne viruses or filoviruses around the world pose a threat to human and animal health. Filoviruses, especially Ebola virus and Marburg virus, are notoriously pathogenic which can affect organs and damage blood vessels, causing severe and often fatal fever in humans.

Researchers from Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School, in collaboration with scientists in China, have now discovered a related but distinctly new genus of bat-borne virus that is potentially capable of infecting other species, including humans.

They have identified and characterised a new genus of filovirus (Dianlovirus) from a Rousettus bat in China. The virus was named the M˘englà virus, which is genetically distinct, sharing 32 to 54 percent of its genetic sequence with other known filoviruses.

This new genus, which could include more than one species, sits between the Ebola virus and Marburg virus on the evolutionary tree and shares several important functional similarities with them. For example, the genome organisation of the M˘englà virus is consistent with other filoviruses, coding for seven genes. The M ˘englà virus also uses the same molecular receptor, a protein called NPC1, as Ebola virus and Marburg virus to gain entry into cells and cause infection.

The researchers tested the M˘englà virus in cell lines from various animal species and found that, like other filoviruses, it poses a potential risk of interspecies transmission.

At present, the virus has only been identified in Rousettus bats in China. Further tests will be conducted to assess the risk of the virus spreading to other species.

The findings were published in Nature Microbiology.

Source: Duke-NUS Medical School

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