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Viruses 2018, 10(10), 549;

Ebola Virus Maintenance: If Not (Only) Bats, What Else?

CIRAD, UMR ASTRE, RP-PCP, Harare, Zimbabwe
ASTRE, Uni. Montpellier, CIRAD, INRA, 34398 Montpellier, France
Faculdade de Veterinaria, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo 01009, Mozambique
UMR EPIA, INRA, VetAgro Sup, Univ Lyon, F-69280 Marcy-l’étoile, France
CIRAD, UMR ASTRE, 34398 Montpellier, France
UMR 224, MIVEGEC, IRD/CNRS/Uni. Montpellier, 34394 Montpellier, France
UMR 233 TransVIHMI, IRD/Uni. Montpellier/INSERM, 34394 Montpellier, France
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 September 2018 / Revised: 26 September 2018 / Accepted: 3 October 2018 / Published: 9 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Collection Advances in Ebolavirus, Marburgvirus, and Cuevavirus Research)
PDF [553 KB, uploaded 9 October 2018]


The maintenance mechanisms of ebolaviruses in African forest ecosystems are still unknown, but indirect evidences point at the involvement of some bat species. Despite intense research, the main bat-maintenance hypothesis has not been confirmed yet. The alternative hypotheses of a non-bat maintenance host or a maintenance community including, or not, several bat and other species, deserves more investigation. However, African forest ecosystems host a large biodiversity and abound in potential maintenance hosts. How does one puzzle out? Since recent studies have revealed that several bat species have been exposed to ebolaviruses, the common denominator to these hypotheses is that within the epidemiological cycle, some bats species must be exposed to the viruses and infected by these potential alternative hosts. Under this constraint, and given the peculiar ecology of bats (roosting behaviour, habitat utilisation, and flight mode), we review the hosts and transmission pathways that can lead to bat exposure and infection to ebolaviruses. In contrast to the capacity of bats to transmit ebolaviruses and other pathogens to many hosts, our results indicate that only a limited number of hosts and pathways can lead to the transmission of ebolaviruses to bats, and that the alternative maintenance host, if it exists, must be amongst them. A list of these pathways is provided, along with protocols to prioritise and investigate these alternative hypotheses. In conclusion, taking into account the ecology of bats and their known involvement in ebolaviruses ecology drastically reduces the list of potential alternative maintenance hosts for ebolaviruses. Understanding the natural history of ebolaviruses is a health priority, and investigating these alternative hypotheses could complete the current effort focused on the role of bats. View Full-Text
Keywords: Africa; bat; community ecology; ebola virus; filovirus; maintenance host; transmission pathways Africa; bat; community ecology; ebola virus; filovirus; maintenance host; transmission pathways

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Caron, A.; Bourgarel, M.; Cappelle, J.; Liégeois, F.; De Nys, H.M.; Roger, F. Ebola Virus Maintenance: If Not (Only) Bats, What Else? Viruses 2018, 10, 549.

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