25 May 2016 - PRESS RELEASE

Do bats play a role in transmitting Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever?

An international team of researchers led by DZIF scientists from the University of Bonn have confirmed the presence of Crimean Congo viruses in African bats. These results suggest that bats could play a role in spreading the virus. The study has been published in the renowned journal "Scientific Reports".


Bat species Coleura afra: in the study, six out of 14 animals developed antibodies against the Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever virus.© Inst. für Virologie, Uni Bonn/Corman

Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever, or short CCHF, is caused by a virus that is particularly endemic in South-East Europe, Asia and Africa and is transmitted by different tick species. Symptoms of infection include severe fever and internal bleeding. Approximately one in ten people die from the infection. A research team led by Christian Drosten and Marcel Müller, both DZIF scientists at the University of Bonn, have confirmed definite symptoms of infection in bats from different African countries.

Up to now, it has been suspected that migratory birds disperse virus-infected ticks into different geographical regions where they then infect animals and humans. Investigations on bats have shown that these could also be spreading the virus. Bats are frequently infested by ticks.

In a broadly based study, over 1000 samples from 16 bat species collected in Gabon, Ghana, Congo, Germany and Panama were tested for the CCHF virus. 12 out of the 16 tested species were confirmed to have the virus, or more precisely, antibodies against the virus. Especially cave-dwelling bats from Africa, which are presumed to be highly exposed to ticks, had developed antibodies against the virus.

To the University of Bonn press release (in German)


Müller, M. A. et al.: Evidence for widespread infection of African bats with Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever-like viruses. Sci. Rep. 6, 26637; doi: 10.1038/srep26637 (2016).


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