Ebola virus disease, first recognized in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a serious and often fatal illness in humans and nonhuman primates caused by infection with one of five Ebola virus species (four of which can infect humans). The virus is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person and can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and hemorrhage (severe bleeding).
Ebola virus is part of the Filoviridae family, which also includes Marburg virus. Marburg virus disease was first recognized in 1967 and is characterized by the same symptoms and transmission routes as Ebola virus disease. There are two known species of Marburg virus that can cause disease in humans and nonhuman primates.
Why Is the Study of Ebola & Marburg a Priority for NIAID?
Ebola and Marburg viruses are rare but have caused periodic cases and deadly outbreaks in Africa since they were first recognized. The largest outbreak of Ebola virus disease, which occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, caused more than 28,600 infections and more than 11,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. There are no licensed treatments or vaccines for Ebola or Marburg virus diseases; however, various experimental countermeasures, including some developed by NIAID, are under preclinical or clinical evaluation.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?NIAID researchers and NIAID-supported scientists at external institutions are studying many aspects of the Ebola and Marburg viruses and how they cause disease. This includes seeking better ways to diagnose and treat Ebola virus disease and Marburg fevers and using applied research to develop and test vaccines and treatments.