Emile Ouamouno, the two-year-old Ebola victim who is believed to have been ‘patient zero’, may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of bats, say scientists.
They made the connection on an expedition to the boy’s village, Meliandou.
They took samples and chatted to locals to find out more about Ebola’s source.
The team’s findings are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine.
Meliandou is a small village of 31 houses.
It sits deep within the Guinean forest region, surrounded by towering reeds and oil palm cultivations – these are believed to have attracted the fruit bats carrying the virus passed on to Emile.
During their four-week field trip in April 2014, Dr Fabian Leendertz and colleagues found a large tree stump situated about 50m from Emile’s home.
Villagers reported that children used to play frequently in the hollow tree.
Emile died of Ebola in December 2013 and used to play there while he was alive, according to his friends.
The villagers said that the tree burned on March 24, 2014 and that once the tree caught fire, there issued a “rain of bats”.