Deadly Marburg fever from caving tourism in Uganda

A 41-year-old woman from the Netherlands became ill with fever four days after returning from holidays in east Africa. The illness was initially diagnosed as malaria. Full organ failure developed within a few days acompanied by generalised haemorrhages, and despite most modern intensive care, the patient died of cerebral oedema.

Electron microscopy of a Marburg virus from the patient`s blood.
Electron microscopy of a Marburg virus from the patient`s blood.

Two weeks prior to the illness she had visited what is known as the Python Cave in the Maramagambo Forest of Uganda, home to large colonies of bats.
We established through virological diagnosis at our Institute that an infection with Marburg virus was the cause of the pathogenic profile. The Marburg virus is a close relative of the Ebola virus and causes a similarly fatal disease. Its natural host animals are fruit bats. The patient, who showed no skin injuries, was presumably infected by inhaling dust of bat excrements. African bats can carry many viruses. It is therefore generally advisable to avoid their contact.


van Paassen J. et al., Lancet Infect Dis 2012, 12:635-42

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, Stefan Schilling, Stefan Oelschläger, Toni Rieger, Petra Emmerich, Christel Schmetz, Stephan Günther, and cooperation partners (see publication)