In Nature's In the News column for March 2008, Ebola may become "safe" enough to be studied in a lab near you. Currently, Ebola virus can only be handled in a BSL-4 lab because it's dangerous (recall from the filovirus lectures that ebola causes 50-90% mortality & deadly hemorrhagic fevers). Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have removed VP30, a transcription factor that is necessary for viral replication, from the viral genome. This modified Ebola strain is genetically stable and morphologically identical to the wild-type strain and can only replicate in cells that have been genetically modified to express VP30. So, if this modified Ebola stain runs rampant in the lab, researchers need not be afraid about infection.
Further studies must be done to ensure that the modified Ebola strain does not revert to the lethal wild-type virus.
Who knows, those virophiles interested in Ebola may be able to study the virus in a BSL2 lab in the near future!