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Current evidence indicates that fruit bats are a reservoir host for Ebola. Has any research established what is different about their cell biology or immune system that reduces virulence for them? Failing research on this particular system, do you have an example in another system of how virulence is reduced in the reservoir host?

I'm teaching a cell biology class, so actual examples of modified proteins or enzymes or inflammatory molecules in the reservoir is preferred.

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New paper in eLife you might find interesting: Pigot et al. 2014. Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa. @Chris – fileunderwater Sep 8 '14 at 11:08
@fileunderwater Interesting, thanks for the paper. – Chris Oct 11 '14 at 8:14
up vote 10 down vote accepted

The main reason for this is that fruit bats are most likely (I don't think there has been a direct proof for Ebola so far) the reservoir host for this disease. The reservoir host is adapted to the disease and can harbour it for an indefinite time (with recurring infections) without showing signs of an infection or being affected by it. Although it is not getting sick, the reservoir host can pass the disease to other animals.

There is very little known about the immune system of bats, but they seem to be different, so they are not affected by diseases which cause havoc in humans. The following papers go into some details and they are interesting to read:

These papers give an interesting view of the bats immune system. The first article is a short explanation of the most important findings of the second. It looks into differences between species and analyse how the bats immune system may have evolved. Really interesting.

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Truly tremendous resources. Thank you Chris! – Adrienne Sep 6 '14 at 19:16

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