MARBURG HAEMORRHAGIC FEVER:
THE GERMAN NAME FOR A KILLER FROM THE AFRICAN RAIN FOREST
“A hot virus from the rain forest lives within a twenty-four hour plane flight from every city on earth. All of the earth’s cities are connected by a web of airline routes. The web is a network. Once a virus hits the net, it can shoot anywhere in a day – Paris, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, wherever planes fly.”
-Richard Preston, The Hot Zone
In 1994,one non-fictional book was published and immediately became the bestseller. The investigative journalist Richard Preston came out with the perfect story dragged out the darkness of the African rain forests. The Hot Zone made the hot atmosphere all over the world since it was based on the true events and since it revealed many scientific concerns and hopes. His writing skills and manner to develop the ideas brought him and his book among one of 100 which shaped American science but which also changed the perspective of public regarding the unknown emerging viruses.
Preston’s book is not only the collected journalist notes about the real outbreaks in the heart of Africa, caused by Ebola virus disease (EVD) and Marburg virus disease (MVD) but also the observation of the author and the covering of the incident which took a place in the US, just 24 km far away from Washington, in Reston, Virginia. The facility faced with infected monkeys and blood analyzes shown the mutated form of Ebola virus, known as Ebola Reston. That was the main reason that this object has been shut down in the period between 1995-1998.
The main core of this thrilling book could be definitely found in the elaboration of the deadly viruses what belong to the Biosafety Level 4. What that exactly mean? Biosafety Level itself is a set of biotechnological standards prepared to be followed during the laboratory work with pathogen microorganism. There are 4 types of these measures and each of them is addressing the specific group of biological agents. The categorization depends on contagious potential, severity of infection, transmissibility, origin of the microbe and route of exposure. The highest level is one which is dealing with the most dangerous agents and the rigid structure and procedure on this stage is completely understandable. When we know that some pathogen belongs to the BSL 4, we can easily conclude the potential disaster if any of them “is out of jail”.
The Ebola virus is now like a brand of natural outbreaks. Everyone heard about this filovirus which turned the whole divided world, over night, into the fear from terrible death and solidarity in the time of Nature ‘s anger. The media propaganda about Ebola didnt stop even when virus stopped to bring chaos. However, not many of us know that Ebola is not alone. Her brother, Marburg virus is also very frighteningly deadly virus just like the whole family of Filoviridae , specifically filamentous infectious viral particles – virions and their genome is hidden in the single stranded negative sense RNA.Marburg virus was discovered first, some records state that is older even 9 years than Ebola but the consequences of his activity came later.
How it is possible that mysterious African virus got a German name ? The WHO explains all:”Marburg virus disease (MVD) (formerly known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever) was first identified in 1967 during epidemics in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany and Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia from importation of infected monkeys from Uganda.” That was a long journey for a virus, from the rain forest in Africa to the Europe. It is believed that C.aethiops monkeys were host of this dangerous virus. The research institutes in Marburg, Frankfurt and Belgrade shipped infected monkeys and their employees came into contact with contagious virus through the blood and organs of primates.31 people became ill in that Marburg attack but the scientists believe that the reservoir host of Marburg virus is the African fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, which doesnt show the signs of illness in spite of primates, including humans. It is worth of saying that high mortality in his case wasn’t proved because between 1967 and 1990, it popped up 7 times in parts of Europe and Africa. There were 39 cases in total but only 10 deaths. This is surprising if we compare almost the same genetic structure of those dangerous virus siblings. Ebola gave so many deaths to the mankind while Marburg was shy in that dance of revenge.Nevertheless, in 1998 Marburg visited Congo and affected 154 people and killed 118.In 2004, Angola lost 227 out of 252 infected people. The writer of The Hot Zone firmly believes that the nature has its own ways of getting the balance and fighting against the parasites – humans. The viruses sent out the undiscovered African tropical forests are something like natural fight back to the civilization which crossed a line.
What are the symptoms of this invisible enemy? The illness presents itself after 3-4 days of the infection. All starts with malaise, headache, myalgia and a high fever. Then it is followed by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, organ destruction so to be finalized with hemorrhagic shock. Only 9-10 days is enough for Marburg to do what AIDS usually needs 10 years. To cause a death.
The advantage of this kind of viruses is that they are highly contagious, they are easily to be spread while the diagnosis is made, the virus dust is already transforming your body into self-destructive shark. The undefined mechanism of this killer gives him an opportunity to break the chains of the host’s immune system and to take over the host as its own fortress of multiplication. At the moment when your blood is kissed by Marburg virions, you are starting to kill yourself. Step by step. The miracles happen, as always and everywhere. There are those who survived Marburg like some of us get over daily cold. the science is interested in that more than it is willing to tell. What is happening inside of genetic crossroads and how that affects one to be crushed and another to be recovered?
I am sure that virus researchers will understand me when I state that both filoviruses are amazingly beautiful in their own scary way. Under the powerful eye of microscope, Marburg virus seems like world for itself. Somehow, our two worlds have touched each others and since then, our world doesn’t belong only to us. The predators are now being hunted by more dangerous predators, viruses. Marburg is just one of them. High class.