Reservoir for Marburg in clay?

Walter Lundby lundbys at
Mon Nov 7 04:04:04 EST 1994

Reservoir for Marburg in clay?

Proposal:   the reservoir for the Marburg and Ebola Reston viruses might not be
            in a living being but in a clay, shale or petrified wood deposit.


1) A recent book on insect DNA preservation in amber mentions that very old 
   DNA has been discovered in some clays and shales in a preserved if not 
   totally intact state. This book, also, mentions the possibility of extracting 
   DNA from petrified wood.

2) Recent articles on possible origins of life have mentioned clay as an ideal 
   substitute for cell walls for early RNA and DNA.

3) Kitum cave contains a petrified rain forest with petrified bones of ancient 
   animals. I would assume that clay(s) would, also, be found.

4) As described in the "Hot Zone" elephants dig the rock (and clays) for 
   minerals and salts.

5) A search of the cave by a US-Kenya expedition turned up no reservoir animals.

6) As stated by Richard Preston in his book these viruses don't behave like 
   parasites rather they behave like hunters. He then wonders what life-form the 
   viral reservoir is. To me it seems quite likely that if they do the damage to 
   so many life forms that they seem to do then it would be in keeping with their 
   behavior if no life-form was the reservoir, rather a inorganic RNA "friendly" 

7) Richard Preston when describing the macaque monkeys with the initial sickness 
   at Reston stated: "... In addition to vegetables and fruits, they eat insects, 
   grass, roots, and small pieces of clay..."

This isn't my area of expertise (computer scientist), but, I hope it stimulates 
some useful thought in those whose area it is.

Walter Lundby
lundby at or lundbys at

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