Ebola outbreak: don’t blame only bush meat

In Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the recent Ebola virus (EBOV) outbreak was devastating and led to more than 10,000 death. But who or what should we blame? - wild, domestic animals or both ...? That is the question Juliet Jabaty from Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute tries to find answers to. She agrees that bush animals such as bat and monkey are the major reservoir of EBOV but more animals could be culprit in cases reported. This critical research gap is yet to be filled hence Juliet researched on “The Role of Livestock and Wildlife in the Biology of Ebolaviruses”. She hypothesized that pigs, dogs and some ruminants can serve as reservoir for transmission of EBOV.

In the research, she conducted a serological analysis on 400 pig serum samples and four seropositive samples were identified - 1% prevalence rate. These positive samples were subjected to a series of confirmatory analysis and were found to be positive even at higher dilution - 1 to 800. It is worth mentioning that the pig housing types associate with the presence of seropositive samples. Samples collected from semi-intensive and free-range housing had positive results while all the samples from the nomadic system had a negative result. She suggested that the seropositive species might have come in contact with wild animals and possibly, medical waste during the Ebola outbreak. One of the participants suggested that the sample size was too low to come up with a good conclusion. Juliet agrees with the point on low sample size and mentioned that the research is still ongoing. More pigs and even other animals such as dog, goat and sheep will be tested in future.

Her research attempted to find an association between the wild animals and domestic animals in relation to the outbreak of EBOV. But currently, no association has been found. Her result suggests that the virus found in the pig is similar to the EBOV but not the same nor have a pathogenic effect on human. However, her research provides a first-hand insight into the role of pig in filovirus. At the moment, no risk from pig was found but the researcher reiterated that consumers in the affected region should cook the meat very well to avoid unknown consequences.  


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