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Ebola virus may be airborne

Category: Infectious Diseases

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports revealed that Ebola may be transmitted in the air. This was discovered after Canadian researchers found that monkeys were contracting the disease from pigs without coming into direct contact with them, reported BBC News.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola, which can be detected with a lab test, is a deadly viral haemorrhagic fever that was first discovered in 1976, when people in Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, all showed symptoms of the illness. During the onset of the disease, side effects include fever, weakness, muscle pain and sore throat, which are usually followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash and weakened kidney and liver function.

The researchers believe that Ebola's airborne capabilities may be the cause of the disease's proliferation in certain parts of Africa. The WHO also noted that ,normally, the disease is spread via blood and body fluid secretion.

Pig transmission
While bats were once thought to be the main transmitters of Ebola, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported that pigs may also be able to spread the virus without physical contact, according to BBC News. The discovery was made when study investigators caged pigs with Ebola and monkeys without the virus in close proximity to one another. Within eight days, the monkeys had Ebola symptoms.

The researchers believe that the pigs transmit the disease via aerosol droplets from their respiratory tracts.

"What we suspect is happening is large droplets - they can stay in the air, but not long, they don't go far," Gary Kobinger, Ph.D., of the National Microbiology Laboratory at the Public Health Agency of Canada, told BBC News. "But they can be absorbed in the airway and this is how the infection starts, and this is what we think, because we saw a lot of evidence in the lungs of the non-human primates that the virus got in that way."

BBC News reported that this theory is bolstered by the discovery of Ebola Reston antibodies found in Filipino pig farmers who had not slaughtered the pigs or touched their infected tissues.

Future prospects
According to the study authors, further research needs to be conducted to better understand how pigs transmit the Ebola virus. Kobinger also noted that in order to keep the disease from spreading, pigs could be vaccinated, which would be an easier task than inoculating humans.


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