Marburg Virus

February 2, 2017

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.

The disease was first recognised in 1967, when outbreaks of haemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and Belgrade in Yugoslavia. A total of 31 people became ill, including 25 laboratory workers, and medical personnel and a family member who had cared for them. The laboratory workers all had contact with the blood, organs or cell-cultures from a batch of imported African green monkeys from north-western Uganda.

It is generally accepted that Marburg virus is a zoonotic (animal borne) virus. Fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptii) are considered the natural host of the virus. Monkeys are susceptible to Marburg virus infection but are not considered the reservoir hosts as they die rapidly once infected.

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 predominant treatment is general supportive therapy.


Marbug, like Ebola, is not an airborne virus. The disease is spread through direct contact with the blood, tissues or bodily fluids of an infected person or, as has happened in many cases before, an infected primate or fruit bat.

Transmission from animals to humans

Experts suspect that Marburg virus are transmitted to humans through an infected animal’s bodily fluids. Examples include –

  • Blood – Butchering or eating infected animals can spread the viruses. Scientists who have operated on infected animals as part of their research have also contracted the virus.
  • Waste products – Tourists in certain African caves and some underground mine workers have been infected with the Marburg virus, possibly through contact with the feces or urine of infected bats.

Transmission from person to person

  • Infected people typically don’t become contagious until they develop symptoms. Family members are often infected as they care for sick relatives or prepare the dead for burial.
  • Medical personnel can be infected if they don’t use protective gear, such as surgical masks and gloves.

Risk Factors

For most people, the risk of getting Ebola or Marburg viruses (hemorrhagic fevers) is low. The risk increases if they –

  • Travel to Africa – People are at increased risk if they visit or work in areas where Marburg virus outbreaks have occurred.
  • Conduct animal research – People are more likely to contract the Marburg virus if they conduct animal research with monkeys imported from Africa or the Philippines.
  • Provide medical or personal care – Family members are often infected as they care for sick relatives. Medical personnel also can be infected if they don’t use protective gear, such as surgical masks and gloves.
  • Prepare people for burial – The bodies of people who have died of Marburg hemorrhagic fever are still contagious. Helping prepare these bodies for burial can increase your risk of developing the disease.


Marburg hemorrhagic fever is characterized by an abrupt onset presenting with fever, chills and myalgia. Two features of the disease are critical in its pathogenesis: endothelial damage orchestrated by both the virus and the up-regulation of toxic cytokines (with extensive vascular leakage as a consequence), and disseminated intravascular coagulation which leads to serious thrombocytopenia.

As a result, severe hemorrhage can ensue at several body sites within approximately 5 to 7 days after the onset of symptoms. Bleeding from the nose, gums, and eyes is commonly observed, whereas considerable gastrointestinal hemorrhage will often manifest as frank blood in the stool or vomit. Dehydration is a frequent consequence.

Symptoms include the following –

  • Maculopapular rashes that develop in the head, neck and stomach
  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdomen pain
  • Cramping
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Joint pain
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Delirium
  • Jaundice

The case-fatality ratio for this disease ranges from 23 to 90%. Survivors of Marburg hemorrhagic fever experience a prolonged convalescence characterized by myalgia, muscle weakness, arthralgia, myelitis, hepatitis, ocular disease, hearing loss, and in some instances even psychosis.


As the illness progresses, it can cause –

  • Multiple organ failure
  • Severe bleeding
  • Jaundice
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Shock


There is no specific treatment for Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Supportive hospital therapy should be utilized, which includes balancing the patient’s fluids and electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, replacing lost blood and clotting factors, and treatment for any complicating infections.

Alternative Treatment

Vitamin C is essential for a strong immune system. Consuming the richest sources of this vital nutrient is important in preventing and during a cold.

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is vital for a strong immune system.

Zinc has been shown to speed up the recovery from colds and coughs.

Probiotic with active live cultures provides beneficial bacteria that have many important functions in the body including the manufacture of nutrients and aiding with digestion. They also help to improve the immune system.

Turmeric has powerful anti-microbial properties and can help to prevent colds and influenza when a half teaspoon is included in the daily diet.

Phyllanthus amarus herb is very effective in naturally treating colds and fevers.


Reference –

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