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The Flying Virus Laboratory

Fruit bats carry more deadly viruses than all of those stored in the world’s high security laboratories put together. But why do other animals and humans die when the hosts themselves remain healthy? Could the key to fighting deadly diseases be found in their genes?

HENIPAVIRUS – This family of two related viruses, the Hendra and Nipah virus, proves fatal in up to 70% of cases.

LAGOS BAT VIRUS – Around a third of bats carry this pathogen, which can trigger rabies in humans.

MARBURG VIRUS – This causes fever in humans and can lead to internal bleeding and death within days.

EBOLA VIRUS – This pathogen has devastating effects: it is highly contagious and no cure currently exists.


The stumble seemed so inconsequential that Sonja Metesch* will only it remember several weeks later. During a tour of a cave in the middle of the Ugandan rainforest, the 40-year-old Dutch woman loses her footing and injures her hand supporting herself on some rocks. Just a scratch, she thinks, as she rejoins the group. It’s a mistake that will prove fatal…

HOW DO YOU GET INFECTED WITHOUT REALISING? Back in the Netherlands, Metesch develops a raging fever. Then things spiral out of control – fast. She is rushed to hospital suffering from multiple organ failure and, just days later, dies. Metesch has fallen victim to the Marburg virus, a disease transmitted by wild animals – even though she never came into direct contact with one. How could that have happened? The virus must have entered her body when she cut her hand on the rocks.

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