First Ebola-like virus native to Europe discovered

October 21, 2011

A team of international researchers has discovered a new Ebola-like virus – Lloviu virus -- in bats from northern Spain. Lloviu virus is the first known filovirus native to Europe, they report in a study published in the journal PLOS Pathogens on Octobr 20th.

The study was a collaboration among scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII) in Spain, Roche Life Sciences, Centro de Investigación Príncipe Felipe, Grupo Asturiano para el Estudio y Conservación de los Murciélagos, Consejo Suerior de Investigaciones Científicas and the Complutense University in Spain.

Filoviruses, which include well-known viruses like and Marburg, are among the deadliest pathogens in humans and non-human primates, and are generally found in East Africa and the Philippines. The findings thus expand the natural geographical distribution of filoviruses.

"The study is an opportunity to advance the knowledge of filoviruses' natural cycle," said Ana Negredo, one of the first authors of the study.

Scientists at ISCIII analyzed lung, liver, spleen, throat, brain and rectal samples from 34 bats found in caves in Asturias and Cantabria, Spain, following bat die-offs in France, Spain and Portugal in 2002 affecting mainly one bat species.

They screened these samples for a wide range of viruses using the polymerase chain reaction, a molecular technique that allows scientists to amplify genetic material, and. detected a filovirus. Filoviruses include ebolaviruses and marburgviruses, two viruses associated with severe disease in humans and other primates..

CII scientists used high-throughput sequencing to characterize the virus' genome. When they compared it to other well-known filovirus genomes, they found that Lloviu virus represents a class of viruses distantly related to all ebolaviruses and that it may have diverged from ebolaviruses about 68,000 years ago.

"The detection of this novel filovirus in Spain is intriguing because it is completely outside of its previously described range. We need to ascertain whether other filoviruses native to Europe exist, and more importantly, if and how it causes disease," said Gustavo Palacios, the other first author of the study.

Filoviruses typically do not make bats sick, but because the team of researchers only detected Lloviu virus in bats that had died and whose tissues showed signs of an immune response, they think Lloviu may be a cause for concern. They also did not detect Lloviu virus in samples of almost 1,300 healthy bats.

Bats have important roles in plant pollination, spreading plant seeds and controlling insect populations, and pathogens that attack bat populations could have dramatic ecological and health-related consequences.

"The Lloviu discovery highlights how much we still need to learn about the world of emerging infectious diseases and the importance of global collaboration and the One Health initiative in addressing the challenge," said CII Director Dr. Ian Lipkin.

Explore further: Researchers Unravel Mystery of How Ebola and Marburg Kill

Related Stories

Researchers Unravel Mystery of How Ebola and Marburg Kill

October 19, 2006

Researchers in the Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Caribbean Primate Research Center have discovered ...

Ebola and Marburg viruses may be much older than thought

June 28, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research on the DNA of wallabies, rodents, a number of mammals and bats has found it is likely the ancestors of the Ebola and lesser-known Marburg viruses were in existence tens of millions of years ago, ...

Hibernation keeps rabies going in bats

June 7, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, infectious disease biologist Dylan George from Colorado State University reports that a bat’s hibernation is what keeps ...

Recommended for you

Team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage

August 24, 2016

Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal ...

Zika infection may affect adult brain cells

August 18, 2016

Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and ...

Immune breakthrough: Unscratching poison ivy's rash

August 23, 2016

We all know that a brush with poison ivy leaves us with an itchy painful rash. Now, Monash University and Harvard researchers have discovered the molecular cause of this irritation. The finding brings us a step closer to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.