Sunday, January 25, 2015

Up-Coming: Computational Genetics and the Evolution of Ebola

Image: NIAID Ebola Virus

"Zaire Ebola virus (EBOV) is an emerging zoonotic pathogen that causes hemorrhagic fever in humans. Fatality rates in some human outbreaks have approached 90% (reviewed in reference. Because of its lethality, the lack of FDA-approved therapeutics, and its potential use as a bioweapon, EBOV is classified as a category A pathogen and is studied under biosafety level 4 containment."(Source: 

The current outbreak of Ebola virus across West Africa involves a strain known as EBOV/Mak. "Viruses like Ebola are notoriously sloppy in replicating, meaning the virus entering one person may be genetically different from the virus entering the next. The current Ebola virus’s hyper-evolution is unprecedented; there has been more human-to-human transmission in the past four months than most likely occurred in the last 500 to 1,000 years. ( "Researchers at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) published their findings in American Society for Microbiology journal mBio. In it, they tracked the genetic mutations of the virus over the last 40 years to identify changes in the current strain that could interfere with experimental, sequence-based therapies. The most promising drugs being developed bind to and target part of  Ebola's genetic sequence or protein sequence. However, if this sequence changes, the drugs will not work as effectively." (Source: "As of 8 January 2015, the mean lethality in this outbreak, caused by Ebola virus (EBOV), reached 39.4% (Source:

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