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Lloviu virus (LLOV) – a close relative of Ebola virus– has been isolated from the first time from Schreiber’s bats in Hungary by researchers from the Medway School of Pharmacy (a partnership between the universities of Kent and Greenwich) and colleagues.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

LLOV is part of the filovirus family – which includes the Ebola virus. While Ebola (and other filoviruses including the similarly pathogenic Marburg virus) have only occurred naturally in Africa, Lloviu has been discovered in Europe.

In addition, researchers discovered that Lloviu has the potential to both infect human cells and also to replicate. This raises concerns about potential widespread transmission in Europe and urges immediate pathogenicity and antiviral studies. Their work also revealed no antibody cross-reactivity between LLOV and Ebola, suggesting that existing Ebola vaccines may not protect against Lloviu, should it be transmitted to man.

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Dr Simon Scott from the Viral Pseudotype Unit (VPU) at Medway School of Pharmacy said, ‘Our research is a smoking gun. It’s vital that we know both more about the distribution of this virus and that research is done in this area to assess the risks and to ensure we are prepared for potential epidemics and pandemics.’