Marburg virus is considered to be a re-emerging pathogen that poses a significant threat to human health. This naturally occurring virus can cause a fulminating hemorrhagic disease with a severe shock syndrome and high mortality in both humans and nonhuman primates – also known as Marburg hemorrhagic fever.
Marburg virus belongs to the family Filoviridae, which contains three genera – Ebolavirus, Marburgvirus and Cuevavirus. The genus Marburgvirus contains only one species: Marburg marburgvirus, more commonly termed Marburg virus. Its genome contains linear, non-segmented, single-stranded RNA molecule that is of a negative polarity.
Recorded cases of Marburg virus disease are rare.Outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and South Africa. The largest outbreak on record to date occurred in 2005 in Angola, and involved 374 cases, including 329 deaths. Two unrelated sporadic cases occurred during 2008 following visits to the “python cave” in the Maramagambo Forest in western Uganda; this cave is home to a large colony of Egyptian fruit bats. Both people became ill after return to their home country; one in the Netherlands and one in the USA. The most recent outbreak was in 2012 in southwestern Uganda.
The Marburg virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected persons. Transmission of the Marburg virus also occurred by handling ill or dead infected wild animals (monkeys, fruit bats). The diagnosis is difficult as many of the signs and symptoms mimic those of other more frequent infectious diseases, such as typhoid fever or malaria; hence, microbiological methods (such as antigen-capture ELISA, IgM-capture ELISA and polymerase chain reaction) are employed to confirm a case of Marburg hemorrhagic fever.
The predominant treatment is general supportive therapy. Treatment is therefore supportive, which includes providing supplemental oxygen, balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes, maintaining circulatory volume and blood pressure, and introducing treatment for any complicating infections.