A New Pandemic Threat? (Video)

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

The Lloviu virus (LLOV) is a close relative to Ebola and Marburg and is capable of infecting human cells researchers have found out. Researchers believe that bats are the natural reservoir for this virus. A report in the PLOS neglected tropical diseases from northeast India, stated that bats as well as humans which worked closely to bats, carried antibodies for several of the filoviruses. Halo viruses tend to have a high case fatality rate as has been observed on the African continent where bats are haunted and consumed. In northwestern India in the state of Nagaland, bats are also harvested and have been for generations as a source of food and medicine.

Ian Mendenhall of Duke National University of Singapore Medical School, and colleagues from the National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India, and the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD in the United States tested blood samples from hunted bat species and the human hunters in Nagaland. Serum was collected from 85 individuals which participated in the annual bat harvest and blood was collected from 149 different bats from the area. No filovirus genetic material was detected in the bat blood or tissues, but researchers did find antibodies in 5.9% of the human samples and almost 20% in the bat samples. This is the first report of fellow vac virus reactive antibodies in both humans and bats in this region that has no historical record of Ebola viruses or diseases.

Now, additional research has been done on LLOV, which has been discovered in Europe. The filovirus LLOV was genetically identified through its RNA in 2002 from bats in Spain and Hungary. LLOV is a zoonotic virus, which means it can be transmitted from animals to humans, which makes it an interest of public health authorities from around the world due to our close relationship with animals. The World Health Organization says that “Zoonoses comprise a large percentage of all newly identified infectious diseases, as well as many existing ones.”

A team of researchers at Medway School of Pharmacy collaborated with Doctor Gabor Kemenesi from the National Laboratory of Virology in Hungary, to detect antibodies in experiments using bat serum as part of the study before the virus was isolated. The isolation occurred in the Hungarian lab from the last bat which tested positive for LLOV. The most significant discovery however is that LLOV has the potential to infect human cells and replicate. This raises concerns about potential widespread transmission throughout Europe and urges immediate studies. They also revealed that there was no antibody cross reactivity between LLOV and Ebola which means the existing Ebola vaccine may not protect against this virus. Doctor Scott says of their research, “(it) is a smoking gun. It’s vital that we know more about the distribution of this virus and that research is done in this area to assess the risks and to ensure we are prepared for potential epidemics and pandemics.”  From this research it’s clear that we have a knowledge gap when it’s in regard to animal host and transmissibility of newly discovered viruses. Funding from the British Academy has enabled Doctor Scott to create a consortium of European bat virologists which aims to carry out essential further research across Europe about the risk of the LLOV virus to human beings.


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