A new study in PLoS suggests that positive tests for Henipaviruses in African Straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana may indicate that one of the most pathogenic virus genera known in humans that is usually found in Australia and Asia may also be endemic in Africa.
Henipaviruses (Hendra and Nipah virus) are highly pathogenic members of the family Paramyxoviridae. Fruit-eating bats of the Pteropus genus have been suggested as their natural reservoir. Human Henipavirus infections have been reported in a region extending from Australia via Malaysia into Bangladesh, compatible with the geographic range of Pteropus. These bats do not occur in continental Africa, but a whole range of other fruit bats is encountered. One of the most abundant is Eidolon helvum, the African Straw-colored fruit bat.
Feces from E. helvum roosting in an urban setting in Kumasi/Ghana were tested for Henipavirus RNA. Sequences of three novel viruses in phylogenetic relationship to known Henipaviruses were detected. Virus RNA concentrations in feces were low.
The finding of novel putative Henipaviruses outside Australia and Asia contributes a significant extension of the region of potential endemicity of one of the most pathogenic virus genera known in humans.