Marburg virus (Marburg marburgvirus; MARV) causes sporadic outbreaks of Marburg hemorrhagic fever (MHF) in Africa. The Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) has been identified as a natural reservoir based most-recently on the repeated isolation of MARV directly from bats caught at two locations in southwestern Uganda where miners and tourists separately contracted MHF from 2007–08. Despite learning much about the ecology of MARV through extensive field investigations, there remained unanswered questions such as determining the primary routes of virus shedding and the severity of disease, if any, caused by MARV in infected bats. To answer these questions and others, we experimentally infected captive-bred R. aegyptiacus with MARV under high (biosafety level 4) containment. These experiments have shown infection profiles consistent with R. aegyptiacus being a bona fide natural reservoir host for MARV and demonstrated routes of viral shedding capable of infecting humans and other animals.
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Vol. 51 • No. 1