The Sierra Leone government has announced the discovery of a sixth Ebola species, the Bombali virus, named after bats found in the Bombali region. According to Amara Jambai, a senior ministry of health official, “At this time, it is not yet known if the Bombali Ebola virus has been transmitted to people or if it causes disease in people but it has the potential to infect human cells.”
Like any good scientist, Tracey Goldstein, of the One Health Institute at UC Davis, described the discovery as “exciting” but cautioned that “I think we have a lot of work to do to really understand if it is a pathogen and whether it does or doesn’t pose a threat.”
There are five other known Ebola viruses, four of which can cause the disease in people: Zaire ebolavirus, Sudan ebolavirus, Taï Forest ebolavirus, Bundibugyo ebolavirus, and Reston ebolavirus, “known to cause disease in nonhuman primates and pigs, but not in people.”
Reston ebolavirus, for those of you living in the U.S., is notable not only because an outbreak occurred in Reston, Virginia not far from D.C., but also because it was the inspiration for one of my favorite books: The Hot Zone. Highly recommended bedtime reading.