Virological and Serological Findings in Rousettus aegyptiacus Experimentally Inoculated with Vero Cells-Adapted Hogan Strain of Marburg Virus

Author(s): Prof. Janusz Paweska , Dr. Justin Masumu

The Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, is currently regarded as a potential reservoir host for Marburg virus (MARV). However, the modes of transmission, the level of viral replication, tissue tropism and viral shedding pattern remains to be described. Captive-bred R. aegyptiacus, including adult males, females and pups were exposed to MARV by different inoculation routes. Blood, tissues, feces and urine from 9 bats inoculated by combination of nasal and oral routes were all negative for the virus and ELISA IgG antibody could not be demonstrated for up to 21 days post inoculation (p.i.). In 21 bats inoculated by a combination of intraperitoneal/subcutaneous route, viremia and the presence of MARV in different tissues was detected on days 2–9 p.i., and IgG antibody on days 9–21 p.i. In 3 bats inoculated subcutaneously, viremia was detected on days 5 and 8 (termination of experiment), with virus isolation from different organs. MARV could not be detected in urine, feces or oral swabs in any of the 3 experimental groups. However, it was detected in tissues which might contribute to horizontal or vertical transmission, e.g. lung, intestines, kidney, bladder, salivary glands, and female reproductive tract. Viremia lasting at least 5 days could also facilitate MARV mechanical transmission by blood sucking arthropods and infections of susceptible vertebrate hosts by direct contact with infected blood. All bats were clinically normal and no gross pathology was identified on post mortem examination. This work confirms the susceptibility of R. aegyptiacusto infection with MARV irrespective of sex and age and contributes to establishing a bat-filovirus experimental model. Further studies are required to uncover the mode of MARV transmission, and to investigate the putative role of R. aegyptiacus as a reservoir host.

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