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Ebola Genetic Analysis Shows How Virus Spread From Guinea To Sierra Leone

News outlets report on a study published in Science that describes the genetic mutations taking place in the Ebola virus as it spreads among humans in the West African outbreak.

Associated Press: Scientists dig into Ebola’s deadly genes for clues
“…Stephen Gire and other health researchers on the ground in Africa had some hope that the Ebola outbreak was coming under control or at least plateauing in late May. Then came the funeral of a healer in Guinea. More than a dozen of the mourners contracted the disease there, probably by washing or touching the body, and took it to Sierra Leone, according to a new genetic mapping of the Ebola virus that scientists hope will help them understand what makes this killer tick…” (Borenstein, 8/28).

New York Times: Outbreak in Sierra Leone Is Tied to Single Funeral Where 14 Women Were Infected
“Sierra Leone’s explosion of Ebola cases in early summer appears to stem from one traditional healer’s funeral at which 14 women were infected, according to scientists studying the blood of victims. The funeral, which took place in mid-May, constitutes a ‘super-spreader’ event comparable to one in 2003 in a Hong Kong hotel in which one doctor from China dying of SARS infected nine other guests who spread the virus throughout the city and to Vietnam and Canada…” (McNeil, 8/28).

NPR: Ebola Is Rapidly Mutating As It Spreads Across West Africa
“For the first time, scientists have been able to follow the spread of an Ebola outbreak almost in real time, by sequencing the virus’ genome from people in Sierra Leone. The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, offer new insights into how the outbreak started in West Africa and how fast the virus is mutating…” (Doucleff, 8/28).

Reuters: Gene studies of Ebola in Sierra Leone show virus is mutating fast
“Genetic studies of some of the earliest Ebola cases in Sierra Leone reveal more than 300 genetic changes in the virus as it leapt from person to person, changes that could blunt the effectiveness of diagnostic tests and experimental treatments now in development, researchers said on Thursday…” (Steenhuysen, 8/29).

Scientific American: Patient Zero Believed to Be Sole Source of Ebola Outbreak
“One glaring fact from the latest report on the Ebola outbreak is that five of the many study authors are dead, killed by the disease that is roiling West Africa. The new analysis, published in the August 29 issue of Science, reveals that the current Ebola outbreak stemmed from an earlier initial leap from the wild into humans, rather than the virus repeatedly jumping from a natural reservoir — perhaps infected animals — to humans…” (Maron, 8/28).

Washington Post: Ebola virus has mutated during course of outbreak
“…The genomic sequencing also offers hints as to how the Ebola ‘Zaire’ strain at the heart of the current outbreak — one of five types of Ebola virus known to infect humans — likely ended up in West Africa in the first place. Researchers said the data suggests that the virus spread from an animal host, possibly bats, and that diverged around 2004 from an Ebola strain in Central Africa, where previous outbreaks have occurred…” (Dennis, 8/28).

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