Joint study reveals genetic competition between bats, Ebola virus

Joint study reveals genetic competition between bats, Ebola virus. | Courtesy of the CDC
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) and the U.S. Army have found biological factors that could help determine which species of bats harbor the Ebola virus.

According to the study, Ebola virus outbreaks occur after an individual comes in contact with a carrier animal. Certain species of bats have been known to act as a reservoir species for the virus.

Research teams from CU-Boulder’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) exposed filovirus samples to cell samples from four species of bat that are endemic to Africa -- two of which are known for being reservoirs in prior outbreaks. In this experiment, only the cells from the straw-colored fruit bat were resistant to the Ebola virus.

Dr. Kartik Chandran, one of the leading researchers and associate professor at the college of medicine, stated that the Ebola virus utilizes the NPC1 cell receptor to infect host cells.

"We mapped this resistance to a single amino acid change in the NPC1 gene of this bat," Chandran said. "This tiny change prevents Ebola from binding to the NPC1 receptor."

The study explains that the change of an amino acid in the Ebola virus would be able to overcome the resistance developed by the straw-colored bat species.

USAMRIID Viral Immunity Branch Chief John Dye said that identifying reservoir species would facilitate enhanced public health response programs for future outbreaks. 

Organizations in this story

Albert Einstein College of Medicine 1300 Morris Park Ave Bronx, NY 10461

U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) 1425 Porter Street Frederick, MD 21702-5011

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