Researchers demonstrate airborne inter-species Ebola transmission

A recent study by researchers at the Canadian National Center for Foreign Animal Disease and the National Microbiology Laboratory demonstrated potential airborne inter-species transmission of the Ebola virus.

The scientists showed the transmission of the Zaire strain of Ebola from pigs to macaques without direct contact between them. The pigs were inoculated with the virus and were kept physically separated but in close proximity to the monkeys. All of the macaques contracted the disease, BBC reports.

"What we suspect is happening is large droplets - they can stay in the air, but not long, they don't go far," Gary Kobinger, a scientist with the National Microbiology Laboratory at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said, according to BBC. "But they can be absorbed in the airway and this is how the infection starts, and this is what we think, because we saw a lot of evidence in the lungs of the non-human primates that the virus got in that way."

Ebola infection appears to primarily affect the respiratory system in pigs, which could make them natural hosts for the lethal virus and contribute to limited airborne transmission of the disease in some parts of Africa. The virus causes systemic infection and immune dysregulation in primates.

"It's an impressive study that not only raises questions about the reservoir of Ebola in the wild, but more importantly elevates concerns about Ebola as a public health threat," Larry Zeitlin, the president of Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, said, according to BBC. "The thought of airborne transmission is pretty frightening."