One day, in the remote village of Meliandou located in southeastern Guinea, a two year old boy was playing around a cola tree known to house a plethora of bats. Many children in the neighborhood would make a game out of hunting and killing these bats for fun. In December of 2013, the two year old boy past away from a mysterious illness. This illness was later identified as Ebola and the young boy was its first victim. He was later referred to by health officials as 'patient zero'.
It has been well over a year since the Ebola out break first made shock waves across the globe. In its path of destruction, the virus has taken the lives of ten of thousands of individuals and still continues its reign of terror today, though Ebola cases are declining. This epidemic however, is far from over. Today, the virus is localized to three main African countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone (although there have also been cases in places like Spain, Mali, Nigeria, and the US).
The death of 'patient zero' has caught the attention of many researchers. Before the child's untimely death, he was known to have been playing with bats near a cola tree in his neighborhood. This tree located in a village in Guinea has stumped researchers for months. The looming question? Did the young boy contract the virus from the bats living in this tree? This is a question that may never be answered seeing as how Guinean health officials had the tree burned to the ground in efforts to stop all bush meat consumption. All that was left behind from the ruins were fragments of bat DNA which was enough to at least identify the bat species. Mop condylurus was the species that lived in the cola tree and researchers now hypothesize that this species of bats could help explain how humans contracted the Ebola virus in the first place. As researchers and scientists race to find clues as to how this species of bat relates to the Ebola outbreak, many today continue to fall victim to the disease. May the hunt for answers and for a cure continue.
-Posted by Amanda Okpoebo (group C)