Scientists believe the recently discovered virus has the potential to infect humans.
The News Lens
By: Muhammad Munir
Scientists from China and Singapore recently reported the discovery of an Ebola-like virus in the liver of fruit bats in Yunnan Province, China. The Mengla virus, named for the county it was discovered in, shares many of the characteristics of the deadly Ebola virus and has the potential to infect humans.
The Mengla virus belongs to the small but deadly family of filoviruses, which includes Ebolavirus, Marburgvirus and Cuevavirus. These viruses are known to cause severe hemorrhagic fever in humans, apes and monkeys, but there is no suggestion that the Mengla virus has been transmitted to humans.
Scientists in China had previously found evidence, in the form of antibodies, of several filoviruses in Rousettus and Eonycteris bats and provided evidence that they were filoviruses – initially labelled as “unclassified”. These same scientists then extended their investigation to explore the genetics of a virus collected from Rousettus bats from Mengla County.
Having genetically sequenced the Mengla virus, they discovered that it has 32-54 percent genetic similarity with known filoviruses and sits somewhere between the Ebola and Marburg viruses on the evolutionary tree. However, the Mengla virus is different enough to warrant its own genus. The new genus has been named Dianlovirus, and it sits in the filovirus group.
The genome of the Mengla virus indicated that it carries a protein on its surface that is similar to other filoviruses that can infect mammals. They found that the Mengla virus uses the same NPC1 receptor that other filoviruses use to enter and infect cells, which suggests that it could infect humans, monkeys, dogs, hamsters and bats. The virus has the potential to either infect humans directly or by first infecting other animals. However, further studies are needed to demonstrate this potential.
The scientists also compared this novel virus genome to Ebola and Marburg viruses and identified incredible similarity in how the genome is organized. Although scientists have not yet sequenced the entire genome of the virus, there is convincing evidence that the Mengla virus can jump to humans through urbanization and deforestation and the close interaction between humans and animals that this encourages. [FULL STORY]