Bas-Congo virus looks like rabies, as deadly as Ebola
Two teenagers perished from mystery virus in 2009
A horrifying new virus that appears to be related to rabies, but has the fatality rate and bleeding symptoms of Ebola is now being studied. Called the Bas-Congo virus, two young teenagers died from the mysterious virus in the Congo in 2009.
The new virus has since been placed in its own branch of the bad virus family tree, which is somewhat related to Ebola and the virus that causes Lassa fever, another horrific killer, and most closely related to the rhabdoviruses.
"They expired within three days," Fair says. "It was a very rapid killer." Interestingly, a male nurse who had tended to the two teenage patients developed the same symptoms - but survived.
Samples from the nurse were analyzed. A completely new virus had infected him, it was learned.
The genetic sequences then went to Dr. Charles Chiu, of the University of California, San Francisco.
"We were astounded that this patient had sequences in his blood from a completely unknown and unidentified virus," Chiu said.
"Congo is very much known for having Ebola and Marburg outbreaks. Yet about 20 percent of the time we have hemorrhagic fever outbreaks that are completely negative, which means unknown causes and they are not Ebola."
The new virus has since been placed in its own branch of the bad virus family tree, which is somewhat related to Ebola and the virus that causes Lassa fever, another horrific killer, and most closely related to the rhabdoviruses. This group typically only infects animals with one notable exception -- rabies.
Rabies is not known to cause hemorrhaging. Rabies is bad virulent on its own, killing virtually all patients if they aren't vaccinated shortly afterwards.
A nurse who took care of the first infected nurse had antibodies to the new virus. Fair says that it doesn't look like the teenagers infected one another, but it's probable they infected the first nurse, who probably infected the second.
The good news: Tests of other villagers have found no more evidence of the virus.
"Although the source of the virus remains unclear, study findings suggest that Bas-Congo virus may be spread by human-to-human contact and is an emerging pathogen associated with acute hemorrhagic fever in Africa," the researchers wrote.
Africa is a land of virulent, incurable and painful diseases. Lassa fever virus comes from a family known as arenaviruses and causes 500,000 cases of hemorrhagic fever a year. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever and Rift Valley Fever viruses are in another family called bunyaviruses; Ebola and Marburg viruses are filoviruses that kill anywhere between 30 percent and 90 percent of victims. They're also helping wipe out great apes such as gorillas in Central Africa. Bas-Congo is just the latest one to the list.
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