The index case in the 2017 Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, was infected through close contact with bush meat, researchers determined.
Justus Nsio , MPH, an epidemiologist in the DRC Ministry of Health, and colleagues also determined that the small outbreak, which occurred in a hard-to-reach area in the northern DRC, involved a novel Ebola virus variant closely related to the first one ever isolated.
“To our knowledge, it is the first [Ebola virus] outbreak in which cases have been identified in real time at the site of the outbreak, based on serological data in concordance with epidemiological findings,” Nsio and colleagues wrote.
Between March 27 and July 1, 2017, three probable and five confirmed cases were recorded, according to the researchers. The cases were detected in four separate areas, resulting in 277 monitored contacts, they reported. Next-generation sequencing revealed the variant to be from the Zaire ebolavirus species, with a 98.73% homology to the Ebola virus variant from the DRC outbreaks in 1976–1977, the first Ebola outbreaks on record.
According to the study, the researchers were able to determine that the outbreak was caused by a single spillover event. More specifically, they determined that the index case, a 45-year-old hunter, was infected through close contact with bush meat. They explained that he had butchered a wild boar after bringing the carcass back to the village, along with a nonhuman primate that he sold at a local market.
“The findings described in this article have important implications with regard to the genetic stability of [Ebola virus] in the environment over decades, and they highlight the importance of understanding the natural evolution of filoviruses and the selection pressure at play that promotes the jump of specific variants into humans,” the authors concluded.– by Caitlyn Stulpin
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.