National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Emerging Infectious Diseases • • Vol. 26, No. 12, December 2020, pp 3051-3055


U.S. government work


We detected Marburg virus RNA in rectal swab samples from Egyptian rousette bats in South Africa in 2017. This finding signifies that fecal contamination of natural bat habitats is a potential source of infection for humans. Identified genetic sequences are closely related to Ravn virus, implying wider distribution of Marburg virus in Africa.

The genus Marburgvirus, family Filoviridae, comprises 1 species, Marburg marburgvirus, which comprises 2 marburgviruses, Marburg virus (MARV) and Ravn virus (RAVV) (1). Marburgviruses cause sporadic but often fatal MARV disease in humans and nonhuman primates (2). The Egyptian rousette bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) has been implicated as the primary reservoir for marburgviruses (3–9), but the mechanisms by which they are maintained in these bats remain elusive. Evidence of marburgvirus circulation was reported from countries where MARV disease outbreaks have not been recorded (10–12). Determining the risks for spread and developing evidence-based public health strategies to prevent zoonotic transmission requires up-to-date knowledge about marburgvirus geographic range; genetic diversity; and transmission mechanisms, including natural ports of entry and shedding patterns. To clarify which marburgviruses are circulating and how they are maintained in Egyptian rousette bat populations in South Africa, we tested oral and rectal swab samples and blood samples collected during a previously identified peak season of marburgvirus transmission in a local Egyptian rousette bat population (13).