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Marburg In Angola is Ebola-like

Recombinomics Commentary

April 6, 2005

>>  While it is useful to describe Marburg virus as "Ebola-like," because both viruses are members of the family _Filoviridae_, it obscures the fact that the 2 viruses are distinctly different in biological and physical terms and that there is little if any antigenic cross-reactivity. The Ebola viruses
are a heterogenous group, such that the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) in its 7th Report, published as "Virus Taxonomy" by Academic Press in 2000, recognized 13 distinct strains grouped into 4 distinct virus species. By contrast, the 6 isolates of Marburg virus that have been characterized (Ratayczak, West Germany, 1967; Popp, West Germany 1967; Voege, Yugoslavia 1967; Ozolin, Zimbabwe, 1975; Musoke, Kenya, 1980; Ravn, Kenya, 1987) show remarkably little variation and are grouped as a single virus species. <<

It is useful to describe the Marburg virus in Angola as Ebola-like because its behavior is much more like the Ebola virus found in western Africa, than the Marburg virus discussed above, which originate from eastern Africa.  Much of the genetic similarity in the Marburg isolates listed above stems from the fact that the four 1967 isolates from Europe, all were transported to Europe via infected African green monkeys used for research purposes in the European labs.  All of the transported monkeys came from Uganda, which is located in eastern Africa.  Similarly, the other Marburg isolates listed above are from locations in eastern Africa (Kenya and Zimbabwe).  These isolates produce a milder disease with case fatality rates of about 25-30%.  The record killing for Marburg was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the northeast corner of the country, near Uganda and Kenya.

In contrast, Ebola virus is found in western Africa, near the current outbreak in Angola.  The isolates are more complex genetically and they produce a higher case fatality rate.  The Marburg virus in Angola is killing at or near 100%.  It is more like the record Ebola outbreak in the western portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo, not far from the current Marburg outbreak in Angola. Thus, the Ebola outbreaks, as well as the current Marburg outbreak in Angola, were all in western Africa. 

The milder outbreaks of Marburg in eastern Africa have little relevance to the current outbreak in Angola, which is spreading at a record pace.  the outbreak will almost certainly top the kill record of 280 set by Ebola in Republic of Congo (Zaire) in 1976.

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