Category: Ebola

The Ebola Relative, Lloviu Virus, Has Pandemic Potential

Photo by Todd Cravens on Unsplash

Researchers have helped isolate the Lloviu virus (LLOV), a close relative of Ebola virus, for the first time, showing that it could cross over into humans, highlighting the need for future research to ensure pandemic preparedness. The study is reported in Nature Communications.

LLOV is part of the filovirus family, which also includes the Ebola virus. While Ebola (and other filoviruses including the lethal Marburg virus) have only occurred naturally in Africa, Lloviu has been discovered in Europe. The filovirus LLOV, was genetically identified in 2002 in Schreiber’s bats in Spain and was subsequently detected in bats in Hungary.

As a zoonotic virus, LLOV is of public health interest to public health around the world due to our close relationship with animals in agriculture, as companions and in the natural environment. Increasing encroachment on the natural environment is creating more opportunities for zoonotic viruses to cross over into humans.

Dr Simon Scott, from the Viral Pseudotye Unit (VPU) at Medway School of Pharmacy were part of a team led by Dr Gábor Kemenesi from Pécs University/National Laboratory of Virology in Hungary. The VPU were involved in conducting all the antibody detection experiments using bat sera as part of the study, even before the virus itself was isolated. This isolation occurred in the Hungarian lab from the very last bat which tested LLOV positive.

The team discovered that Lloviu has the potential to both infect human cells and replicate, raising concerns about potential widespread transmission in Europe and urges immediate pathogenicity and antiviral studies. The VPU work also revealed no antibody cross-reactivity between LLOV and Ebola, suggesting that existing Ebola vaccines might not protect against Lloviu.

Dr Scott said that their research “is a smoking gun. It’s vital that we know both more about the distribution of this virus and that research is done in this area to assess the risks and to ensure we are prepared for potential epidemics and pandemics.”

The research revealed a considerable knowledge gap regarding the pathogenicity, animal hosts, and transmissibility of these newly discovered viruses. Dr Scott created a consortium of European bat virologists, harnessing expertise in the field, from ecology to virology, which is aiming to carry out essential further research across Europe into the risks of the Lloviu virus to humans.

Source: University of Kent

‘Epidemic Situation’ in Guinea after Cases of Ebola

Recent confirmed cases of an Ebola outbreak have resulted in an epidemic being declared, with governments and health organisations racing to prepare.

After an emergency meeting Sakoba Keita, head of Guinea’s National Health Security Agency, stated: “Very early this morning, the Conakry laboratory confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus.”

In late January, one person had died in Gouécké, near the Liberian border. The victim was buried on 1 February “and some people who took part in this funeral began to have symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting, bleeding and fever a few days later”, Keita said.

Laboratory testing of samples revealed the presence of Ebola in some of them on Friday, said Keita. He added that, with a total of seven cases and three deaths, Guinea was now in an “Ebola epidemic situation”.

WHO representative Alfred George Ki-Zerbo said in a press briefing: “We are going to rapidly deploy crucial assets to help Guinea, which already has considerable experience [treating the disease]. The arsenal is stronger now and we will take advantage of that to contain this situation as fast as possible.

“The WHO is on full alert and is in contact with the manufacturer [of a vaccine] to ensure the necessary doses are made available as quickly as possible to help fight back.”

Ebola is also flaring up outside of Guinea. On Thursday, the WHO announced a resurgence of Ebola in the DRC, only three months after the outbreak there was declared over. In Guinea’s neighbour Liberia, health authorities have been put on high alert even though no cases have as yet been detected there. 

The deadly Ebola outbreak of 2013-2016 prompted the creation of a global stockpile of 500 000 vaccine doses, which can be drawn upon whenever an outbreak of the disease occurs.

Source: The Guardian

Ebola Vaccine Stockpile Being Created

The International Coordinating Group (ICG) announced on Monday that it was creating a stockpile of the Ebola vaccine in Switzerland, to help contain future outbreaks. Between 2014 and 2016, the haemorrhagic fever claimed 11 300 lives, with a fatality rate of 90%.

The single dose Ebola vaccine was trialled with 350 000 in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 DRC outbreak under “compassionate use”. The vaccine was jointly developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, providing financial support.Countries requesting a vaccine will be able to receive a response in 48 hours, with a goal for a seven day delivery time.Unlike COVID, Ebola is a rare and unpredictable disease, and thus there is the need to create a reserve for the vaccine as opposed there being a “natural market” for it.

“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, in a press release, saying that when it comes to dealing with disease outbreaks, “preparedness is key.”

She said the vaccine stash is a “remarkable achievement” that will allow vaccines to be delivered to those who need them in a timely manner. 
Assembling the required 500 000 doses for the stockpile will take some to three years, with 6890 doses currently available for outbreak response. The WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, and vaccine manufacturers are in the meantime are ready to escalate production if needed.

Source: Voice of America News