In the countries most severely affected by the 2013-2016 Ebola virus outbreak, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, the outbreak vividly demonstrated the catastrophic humanitarian as well as economic consequences such an epidemic can have on the local populations. Previous Ebola virus outbreaks likely originated in bats, which act as a 'wild reservoir' for these viruses. Ebolaviruses belong to the Filoviridae family and can be transmitted accidentally to humans either directly from the reservoir host or indirectly via intermediate hosts, e.g., through contact with infected animals and especially their excretions and secretions. After initial entry into the human population, most transmission then occurs through direct human-to-human contact, which can lead to rapid spread of the outbreak. Although the zoonotic origin of Ebola virus outbreaks in humans has long been known, the role of susceptible animal species, their role as potential intermediate hosts, and the pathogenesis occurring in these species is largely unknown. The goal of this project is to further investigate the role of pigs and dogs in the transmission chain of Ebola viruses to develop a detailed risk assessment. Initial published data suggest that pigs play a role in Ebolavirus biology. Further investigation and also pathogenesis studies in animals are needed for a better overview. In contrast, the involvement of dogs in Ebolavirus transmission is highly controversial and a broader approach involving serological and molecular biology studies is needed to secure further insights.
These issues can only be investigated in close collaboration with partners in Africa (Institut Pasteur in Guinea and Njala University in Sierra Leone). The TRACE project therefore aims to further strengthen the partnerships established in the predecessor project "Ebola Foresight" (funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture) and also to advance capacity building in these countries.
Involved INNT scientists:
Project coordination: Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut