Researchers have discovered a new Ebola-related virus in bats in China, a study says.
The potentially dangerous filovirus, known as Mengla virus, comes from the Rousettus bat in Yunnan Province, China, and can lead to fatal fever diseases in humans, according to findings published Monday in Nature Microbiology.
"Studying the genetic diversity and geographic distribution of bat-borne filoviruses is very important for risk assessment and outbreak prevention as this type of infectious disease can affect the general public without warning with devastating consequences," Wang Lin-Fa, Director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Signature Research Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, said in a news release.
Mengla uses the same molecular receptor protein NPC1 as the Ebola and Marburg viruses to enter and infect cells.
While Mengla shares some common characteristics to other filoviruses, it also has some differences. For one, it shares only 32 per cent to 54 per cent of its sequence of genes with other filoviruses.
Plus, it also lives in different geographic locations.
And this new genus of filovirus fits right in between the Ebola and Marburg viruses on the evolutionary scale, the researchers said.
In 2018, the Congo experienced an Ebola virus epidemic.
"The early identification of the filovirus from Rousettus bats by Prof. Wang and researchers in China is one of the many strong research collaborations the Emerging Infectious Diseases Program at Duke-NUS engages in," said Patrick Casey, senior vice dean of research and a professor at the Duke-NUS Medical School.
"With globalization, it is important to identify and assess the risk of potential infectious disease outbreaks and, from it, develop effective controls strategies and treatments," Casey added.
The researchers said they will now test the risk of the Mengla virus spreading to other species.