Long a suspected source of the virus, bats had not been confirmed as carriers of the lethal disease before. The discovery could help scientists learn more about how the virus infects humans. From a report: For the first time, the type of deadly Ebola virus responsible for recent epidemics in West and Central Africa has been found in a bat, Liberian health officials announced on Thursday. Scientists have long suspected that bats were a natural host of Ebola and a source of some human infections, but until now they had not found any bats that harbored the epidemic species, known as Zaire ebolavirus. Although the bat was found in Liberia, the country has not had any human cases of Ebola since 2016, and the bat was not associated with any illness in people. The finding is preliminary and not yet ready for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the usual venue for presenting scientific discoveries. Only 20 percent of the bat’s genome has been studied, and research on it is continuing.
But because of its potential impact on public health, officials in Liberia wanted to share the information widely as soon as possible. “It’s an incomplete study, a work in progress,” said Simon J. Anthony, a virologist at Columbia University who has performed genetic analyses on samples from the infected bat. “It feels premature scientifically, but on the other hand, you have the public health aspect. We do have enough data to suggest to me that it is Ebola Zaire in this bat. We agree with our Liberian government partners that this information should be shared.” Knowing which types of bat carry Ebola may help health officials prevent outbreaks by educating the public about how to prevent contact with the creatures, scientists said.
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