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Marburg virus

Daniel S Chertow, MD, MPH
Mike Bray, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer Mitty, MD, MPH


The family Filoviridae consists of three genera: Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus (which are among the most virulent pathogens of humans) [1-3], and Cuevavirus, which has only been detected in bats in Spain [4]. The Zaire species of Ebolavirus was the causative agent of the 2014-2016 epidemic in West Africa [5].

This topic reviews the epidemiology, clinical manifestations, treatment, and other aspects of the disease caused by members of the genus Marburgvirus. Detailed discussions of Ebola virus disease are found elsewhere. (See "Epidemiology and pathogenesis of Ebola virus disease" and "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of Ebola virus disease" and "Treatment and prevention of Ebola virus disease".)


The filoviruses are nonsegmented, negative-sense, single-stranded RNA viruses. The family name is derived from the Latin "filum," meaning "thread-like," based upon the filamentous structure of the virion. The filoviruses resemble rhabdoviruses and paramyxoviruses in their genome organization and intracellular replication mechanism. (See "Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of rabies", section on 'Virology' and "Measles: Epidemiology and transmission".).

The genus Marburgvirus contains a single species that consists of two recognized variants, Lake Victoria marburgvirus and Ravn marburgvirus, which show approximately 20 percent overall sequence divergence [6,7]. Despite this variation, the two strains cause an apparently identical disease in humans and laboratory animals, and animals that have received an experimental vaccine based on one variant are cross-protected against the other [8,9]. In contrast, Ebola vaccines do not provide protection against Marburg virus. (See 'Vaccine development' below.)


Endemic areas — The first recognized outbreak of Marburg virus disease occurred in Germany and Yugoslavia in 1967; the overall fatality rate was 23 percent. This outbreak was a result of the inadvertent importation of infected vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) from Uganda for use in vaccine production. Following the outbreak, a wide variety of animal species were trapped and sampled for virus in the region where the macaques had been captured, but a source of the infection was not identified [10,11].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 12, 2017.
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