Friday, July 10, 2009

Ebola Virus Found In Philippine Pigs

A variant of the Ebola virus that originally jumped from monkeys to humans most notably in Africa has now turned up in Philippine pigs according to researchers for the journal “Science”.

Roger W. Barrette along with colleagues documented the Reston ebolavirus (“REBOV”), among domestic pigs "experiencing unusually severe outbreaks of porcine reproductive and respiratory disease" in the Philippines.

The authors warn that while there have been no signs the virus can spread between pigs and farm workers so far, the presence of Reston ebolavirus in the human food chain "is of concern." However, despite the claim that there is no evidence the virus can spread from pig to human, there have been documented cases of people recently contaminated with the virus without displaying any symptoms of the disease. Upon investigation, it was found they all had some connection with pork and/or the pork industry. They authors suggest that "it is hypothetically possible that the virus could mutate in pigs and become more dangerous for humans." I think this may be a bit of an understatement.

The REBOV virus was first discovered in the US in 1989. It was found to have come in a contaminated shipment of cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fascicularis) from the Philippines. There were outbreaks of the disease in the United States in 1990 and 1996 while Italy got hit in 1992. The outbreaks were traced back to a facility in the Philippines.

The disease manifested as a highly-contagious hemorrhagic fever with a staggeringly high death toll. Very few who caught it survived.

Full report by: Roger W. Barrette et al. Discovery of Swine as a Host for the Reston ebolavirus. SCIENCE VOL 325 10 JULY 2009