Researchers from Airlangga University’s Avian Influenza-zoonosis Research Center in Surabaya, East Java, report that they have detected evidence of Ebola virus in several orangutans in Kalimantan.
Researcher Chairil Anwar Nidom told The Jakarta Post on Friday that 65 serum samples collected from 353 healthy orangutans between December 2005 and December 2006 tested positive for Ebola virus.
“The result should be an early warning for us,” he said.
“In 2006, we collected the samples and froze them because we didn’t have an appropriate laboratory to examine them. We examined them last year,” he added.
Chairil also said that six of 353 samples tested positive for Marburg virus, the similar virus to Ebola that causes Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever.
Further examination, Chairil said, showed that 60 of 65 Ebola-tested samples were similar to the virus found in Africa.
“There were only five samples that had the similarity with Ebola virus found in Asia. The other 60 were similar to the Ebola virus found in Zaire, Sudan, Ivory Coast, and Bundibugyo district in Uganda,” he said.
According to Chairil, Ebola virus might still live in some of orangutans’ bodies.
“All I can say is that Ebola could be a threat to humans living in Indonesia,” he said.
The orangutan is only found in Kalimantan and Sumatra. The other great apes: gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo live in Africa.
Chairil and his team said they would continue the research. “We are currently collecting samples from wild boars, which we suspect transmit the virus to orangutans,” he said.
Ebola virus was first detected in Congo in 1976. Sixteen people were killed in the last Ebola outbreak in Uganda this year.