Dear Ms. Freyer,
Thank you for your recent article in the Globe about the Ebola response in the US. I am a PhD student at the University of Georgia studying emerging diseases in fruit bats, and have followed the Ebola outbreak with interest.
I had one comment to make regarding your statement that "Ebola is thought to originate in fruit bats that bite primates." It is true that there are several lines of evidence to suggest that fruit bats may be the natural reservoir for Ebola virus:
- Ebola virus has been shown to replicate in experimentally inoculated fruit bats (Swanepoel et al. 1996, Emerging Infectious Diseases 2:321-325)
- Antibodies against Ebola virus have been found in wild fruit bats (Leroy et al. 2005, Nature 438:575-576)
Fruit bats play an important role in the ecosystem by pollinating native trees (and insectivorous bats, like the ones we have in the US, provide pest control). Misleading statements about bats can cause people to fear them unnecessarily and potentially lead to mass bat culls. I hope that you will amend your article in light of the information I have provided, and remove the phrase "that bite primates."
Odum School of Ecology
University of Georgia