By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
A fast-growing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could become “the worst ever seen in East Africa,” the International Rescue Committee warned on August 29, after the deadly virus had spread to an area held by armed militants.
However, the World Health Organization announced earlier in the week that two of the first 16 people to receive an experimental treatment for Ebola in the two eastern provinces have recovered, CNN reported.
"This is a major advancement in an Ebola response," WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told CNN.
Five experimental Ebola therapies have been approved to treat people infected with the Ebola virus, Jasarevic said. Two therapies are already in use and the other three will follow them.
As of August 25, a total of 111 cases of Ebola were reported. Eighty-three of these cases have been confirmed and 28 are considered probable. The death toll stands at 72 fatalities.
In addition, 14 healthcare workers have been infected, with one death.
New Ebola Virus Bombali Found in Bats in Sierra Leone
Meanwhile, scientists in Sierra Leone have discovered a new Ebola virus found in bats. It’s called Bombali after the district where the virus was found, ZME Science reports. “The sequencing of the complete genome of the novel Bombali species” was published recently in the journal Nature Microbiology.
The new Ebola virus found in free-tailed bats roosting inside people’s houses provides “the strongest evidence to date that bats are the natural hosts of these viruses,” Kat Kerlin, of the UC Davis News and Media Relations staff, reported in the UCDavis website.
“Based on laboratory experiments, researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report that the virus has the potential to infect human cells but stress that it is not known whether it has actually infected people or if it is harmful,” Kerlin’s article said.
Bats Play an Important Role in Controlling Pest Populations and Pollination
People should not try to exterminate or eradicate bats in response to this new discovery, ZME Science advised. “Bats play an important role in controlling insect populations and other pests that can transmit diseases and destroy crops. More than a quarter of known bat species feed on fruit or nectar, pollinating many plants and dispersing seeds in the process,” ZME explained.
“Identifying new viruses like Bombali in wildlife and testing their capacity for human infection can enhance our understanding of the pre-emergent viral diversity circulating in animals,” Professor Simon Anthony, a virologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told ZME. “We want to discover viruses that have the genetic prerequisites for human infection and then prioritize them for further study and intervention,” he added.
Bombali Ebola is different from the Zaire Ebola, which killed thousands of people between 2013 and 2016, ZME explained. ZME author Melvin Sanicas said, “Despite more than 40 years of research, the reservoir hosts for these viruses is still unknown.”
The new Ebola species was discovered by the PREDICT Ebola Host project. PREDICT is a partnership among USAID, the EcoHealth Alliance, Metabiota, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian Institution.
Participants in the project included scientists from the University of California Davis’s One Health Institute and Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity. They are working with the government of Sierra Leone and the University of Makeni and Metabiota.