Woman holding a Egyptian fruit bat

A Rousettus fruit bat similar to this one has been found to harbour a previously unknown virus from the same family as Ebola. Credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty

Virology

New Ebola-like virus found in a Chinese bat’s liver

The Měnglà virus can infect human cells but the risk of its transmission from bats to humans is unknown.

A relative of the Ebola virus has been discovered in a bat captured in China — and has been shown to infect cells from various mammals, including humans.

Ebola virus, Marburg virus and other members of the ‘filovirus’ family cause severe bleeding and organ failure. In Africa, at least one species of bat is known to host Marburg virus, and a number of bat species are suspected of carrying Ebola virus.

To learn more about bats’ role in the spread of filoviruses, Lin-Fa Wang at the Duke–NUS Medical School in Singapore, Zheng-Li Shi at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan and their colleagues examined a Rousettus fruit bat caught in southern China. The bat’s liver contained a new type of filovirus that the researchers named Měnglà virus for the county where the bat was captured. Měnglà is substantially different from both Ebola and Marburg virus, highlighting the genetic diversity of filoviruses in bats.

The team found that the virus can infect cells from monkeys, hamsters, dogs and humans. Research is needed to determine what the risk is of Měnglà virus spreading beyond bats, the authors say.