Ebola Mutation Likely Helped Virus More Easily Infect Humans In West Africa, Studies Show

New York Times: Ebola Evolved Into Deadlier Enemy During the African Epidemic
“The Ebola epidemic that tore through West Africa in 2014 claimed 11,310 lives, far more than any previous outbreak. A combination of factors contributed to its savagery, among them a mobile population, crumbling public health systems, official neglect, and hazardous burial practices. But new research suggests another impetus: The virus may have evolved a new weapon against its human hosts…” (Zimmer, 11/3).

NPR: Mutant Ebola May Have Caused Explosive Outbreak
“…Two studies, published in the journal Cell, found that a single mutation arose early in the epidemic. It allows Ebola to infect human cells more easily than the original version of the virus — way more easily…” (Doucleff, 11/3).

Science: Has a new mutation in the Ebola virus made it deadlier?
“…The findings ‘raise the possibility that this mutation contributed directly to greater transmission and thus to the severity of the outbreak,’ the team writes. And they found an ‘association’ with increased mortality. ‘We should neither be alarmist nor complacent,’ [Harvard University’s Pardis Sabeti, an evolutionary geneticist who co-authored one of the papers,] says. ‘Any possibility that one of the mutations can have a serious impact should be interrogated’…” (Cohen, 11/3).

Scientific American: Ebola’s West African Rampage Was Likely Bolstered by a Mutation
“…The two research teams first examined more than a thousand viral genomes that were isolated and sequenced from Ebola patients across Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. One group also explored additional sequences from Mali. The two teams worked separately and were not aware of each other’s efforts until the papers were well underway, authors from both said…” (Maron, 11/3).

TIME: How Ebola Got So Deadly
“…The researchers argue that a form of the virus carrying the mutation emerged during the outbreak and may be responsible for close to 90 percent of the cases. … But the scientists have not confirmed how the mutation makes the Ebola virus more likely to get into human cells…” (Sifferlin, 11/3).

Washington Post: The Ebola virus mutated to better infect humans during the 2014 outbreak
“…It’s difficult to say whether knowing about the mutant sooner could have helped public officials respond to the virus. But … researchers think it’s essential to understand how viruses adapt as they spread from person to person…” (Kaplan, 11/3).

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