In the small village of Meliandou, in Guinea, stood a tall, hollowed-out tree where children loved to play. But thousands of bats lived in the tree, and one toddler — a 2-year-old named Emile Ouamouno — may have contracted Ebola from playing there.
Emile, who died in December 2013, was "patient zero," or the first person known to have contracted Ebola in the current outbreak that has now claimed at least 7,600 lives in the region. In a new study, researchers looking for the source of the outbreak found that free-tailed bats (Mops condylurus) lived in the tree. These bats are likely a reservoir of the disease, the researchers concluded.