Read about a new, molecular view of the Ebola virus that could hold the key to countering this severe and often fatal disease.
Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers are acute diseases that often lead to severe illness and death in both humans and nonhuman primates. The diseases typically affect multiple organs in the body and are often accompanied by hemorrhage (bleeding). The illnesses are caused by filoviruses, the only two known members of the virus family Filoviridae.
Marburg hemorrhagic fever was first recognized in 1967, when laboratory workers in Germany and Yugoslavia developed a hemorrhagic illness after handling tissue from green monkeys. The outbreak resulted in 31 infections and 7 deaths. Researchers later identified the cause as a never-before-seen filovirus, termed “Marburg” after one of the outbreak locations.
Eleven years later, Ebola virus was identified when two outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred in northern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and southern Sudan. The causes of the outbreaks were identified as two different species of another novel filovirus, called “Ebola” after a river in northern Zaire. Both species proved to be highly lethal, as 90 percent of the Zairian cases and 50 percent of the Sudanese cases resulted in death.
Last Updated May 17, 2010
Last Reviewed May 14, 2010