Sunday, November 27, 2016

New mutations helped Ebola virus infect more victims

During the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, two new studies showed that the Ebola virus experienced mutations that enabled it to spread more easily among humans. The virus had infected about 28,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, eventually killing about 11,000.

Two articles published in Cell reported several mutations that seemed to enhance the virus’s ability of infecting human (and other primate) cells. For example, one mutation found by researchers appeared two times as successful at infecting human cells. The mutations found in the studies were changes carried down into their viral progeny and. Some mutations were found to be correlated with greater likelihood of death due to the disease: humans infected with strains of the virus with the mutation were more likely to die compared to those infected with strains without the mutation.

Aside from social factors that may have contributed to the spread of Ebola during the outbreak 2013-2016, the genetic makeup of the virus could also have been a contributing factor. This research gives more insights into the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Emily Nguyen

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