Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is Ebola Mutating?

News Brief by Kanika Kamal

The Ebola epidemic has caused widespread casualties throughout West Africa and widespread panic throughout the world since March 2014. A recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in August, however, has instilled more fears about whether the disease might spread to Central Africa, as well. Additionally, it seems that this strain of Ebola is a new local virus, different from the one raging through West Africa. This terrifying realization shows that new strains of the Ebola virus are emerging rapidly and therefore it is incumbent that we try to understand how these mutations occur before more strains begin to emerge.

Many medical organizations worldwide, such as WHO, have began their investigation on the new Ebola strain in the DRC. In fact, whole genome sequencing of the virus has already been performed. These experiments confirmed that this virus is indeed a different strain than the one in West Africa, and it interestingly is very similar to the Ebola strain that raged through the DRC and Gabon in the late 90s. Luckily, as of right now, the DRC strain of Ebola has been contained.

So, what does this mean about the future of Ebola and our worldwide efforts to fight the hemorrhagic disease? Our first step is to understand the ways in which the virus circulates, whether it is between species, seasons, etc., and the rate at which it is mutating. With this knowledge, we may be able to predict when a next epidemic is going to occur so that we can be better prepared to control and prevent the spread of the virus as much as possible.

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). "Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo: A new strain of the virus." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2014. .

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