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Scientists Found the Origin of the Ebola Outbreak 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-was-the-butler-with-the-candlestick-in-the-library dept.
Taco Cowboy sends this report from Vox: One of the big mysteries in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is where the virus came from in the first place — and whether it's changed in any significant ways. ... In a new paper in Science (abstract), researchers reveal that they have sequenced the genomes of Ebola from 78 patients in Sierra Leone who contracted the disease in May and June. Those sequences revealed some 300 mutations specific to this outbreak. Among their findings, the researchers discovered that the current viral strains come from a related strain that left Central Africa within the past ten years. ... Using genetic sequences from current and previous outbreaks, the researchers mapped out a family tree that puts a common ancestor of the recent West African outbreak some place in Central Africa roughly around 2004. This contradicts an earlier hypothesis that the virus had been hanging around West Africa for much longer than that. Researchers are also planning to study the mutations to see if any of them are affecting Ebola's recent behavior. For example, this outbreak has had a higher transmission rate and lower death rate than others, and researchers are curious if any of these mutations are related to that. ... The scientific paper on Ebola is also a sad reminder of the toll that the virus has taken on those working on the front lines. Five of the authors died of Ebola before it was published.
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Scientists Found the Origin of the Ebola Outbreak

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  • Trying to figure out the mortality rate for a virus that's still making it's rounds seems premature. What if you've been infected for a day? That you haven't yet died from Ebola doesn't mean you won't..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wolrahnaes (632574)

      If you wait long enough the mortality rate goes to 100%.

      • Someone who dies in ten years after an Ebola infection is probably going to be dying of something other than Ebola (unless they got infected again I guess).
    • by sribe (304414) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @10:06AM (#47790681)

      Trying to figure out the mortality rate for a virus that's still making it's rounds seems premature.

      Especially when the reaction of many who are exposed is to run, and hide from medical treatment...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If this epidemic gets really bad, the social and economic consequences can kill a lot of people who don't even get the disease.

      • If this epidemic gets really bad, the social and economic consequences can kill a lot of people who don't even get the disease.

        Given that five of the authors are dead of Ebola ....
        This is really bad... and can only get worse.

    • by Roceh (855826) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @10:24AM (#47790725)
      It could be the mortality rate for Ebola has been overestimated in any case, mild cases may not be recorded at all - there is something of a stigma with Ebola. The most recent case with the Nigerian diplomat who skipped quarantine and holed up in a hotel and then recovered after a few days indicates there are some who get mild symptoms (and are still infectious however - see Port Harcourt outbreak).
      • by RockDoctor (15477)
        OTOH, it could be that the mortality rate is within the expected bounds (1 in 2 to 3 in 4 ) and that a lot of people are getting infected and dieing away from the areas that the forces of the state can get to, to count the living and the dead.
  • It's nice to have this analysis. But am I the only wondering to what other use they could have put those DNA Points???

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The big mystery about where it comes from is where it lies dormant, which it seems is as yet still unknown.

  • There's another one in Congo that appears to be a different strain.
  • Dangerous virus (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @10:47AM (#47790795)

    The fact that so many experts on the disease die of it is a testament to its extreme contagiousness, and why we really should be scared of this thing. Of all people, experts of the disease take precautions to avoid catching it themselves, when they do, its not a good sign. It only makes sense to put into place travel bans from infected countries. It is important when dealing with this diseases to stop the spread by banning travel from the hot zone. There also needs to be public funding for a vaccine.

    • Re:Dangerous virus (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nemyst (1383049) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @11:04AM (#47790851) Homepage
      Ebola is actually not that contagious. Its usually high mortality rate makes it slow to propagate, since it tends to kill the host before they can spread it much. You also need extended contact with infected people to be susceptible to transmission (hence why the researchers were amongst the most likely to get it, protection or not, and the lack of treatment or prevention mechanism meant that there was little to do for them once they had it).

      An Ebola outbreak in Europe or North America would do little damage as it would be contained swiftly. Unless ZMapp is mass produced before then, the infected would probably be quarantined and left there, but either way you could control it and even in a major population center the damage would be relatively low. An influenza epidemic like the Spanish flu would be far more devastating, despite the fact flu is a much more common (and less "scary") disease.
      • Re:Dangerous virus (Score:4, Informative)

        by denzacar (181829) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @11:47AM (#47790971) Journal

        despite the fact flu is a much more common (and less "scary") disease.

        Flu is killing 200.000 to 500.000 people globally every year.

        http://www.who.int/mediacentre... [who.int]

        Influenza occurs globally with an annual attack rate estimated at 5% - 10% in adults and 20% - 30% in children.
        Illnesses can result in hospitalization and death mainly among high-risk groups (the very young, elderly or chronically ill).
        Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths.

        It's just not that sexy to make a movie about it with Morgan Freeman, Dustin Hoffman and a monkey.
        Plus people ignorant of distinction between common cold and influenza don't perceive it as a threat.
        Which is a further reason why there is no movie with a monkey about it.

        • Re:Dangerous virus (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:04PM (#47791025)

          despite the fact flu is a much more common (and less "scary") disease.

          Flu is killing 200.000 to 500.000 people globally every year.

          http://www.who.int/mediacentre... [who.int]

          Dying the flu generally requires complicating conditions. Most people survive it just fine. Ebola is scary because most people don't survive it.

          • by denzacar (181829)

            Dying the flu generally requires complicating conditions. Most people survive it just fine. Ebola is scary because most people don't survive it.

            Following that logic, ebola is not scary simply because most people don't ever catch it.

            Or are you arguing that since it's not your ass, you not being elderly, pregnant or a small child - fuck those weaklings dying in hundreds of thousands each year from a disease "Most people survive it just fine".

            And again... Most people DO NOT GET THE FLU each year but simple common cold.
            "3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths" comes to 8-10% fatalities.
            That's about 3 kids dead in a c

            • Re: Dangerous virus (Score:5, Informative)

              by rhodium_mir (2876919) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @01:45PM (#47791475)

              Penicillin is not an effective treatment for Influenza.

              • Re: Dangerous virus (Score:5, Informative)

                by HuguesT (84078) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:50PM (#47792331)

                It could be for complications. Influenza causes inflammation, which itself creates a happy medium for bacteria in the lungs. It is standard practice to give antibiotics in severe cases of influenza. This does not help against the virus but helps lowering the risk of reinfections. See there [nih.gov].

              • by denzacar (181829)

                It was effective against a bacterial inflammation of the heart muscle, for which influenza "opened the door".
                Like I said, they never figured out what exactly was the cause, they just settled for viral once they ran out of congenital and parasitic causes.

                Penicillin (probably a streptomycin combo) was administered "just in case".
                Same as the glucose I was receiving intravenously for several days more, despite being quite able to eat and digest solid food - which I did as I was allowed to.

            • by ch0knuti (994541)

              Influenza is a viral infection. Penicillin is an antibiotic. If a few shots of penicillin "fixed" you, it probably was something else.

              • by denzacar (181829)

                Probably.
                It probably took out a bacterial infection for which the influenza opened the doors.
                It was the only thing other than the glucose I was given intravenously, just in case.

                And it started working from the first shot I received in the morning at the doctor's office (now my doctor WAS on duty) as I was already feeling well enough to walk on my own around the hospital, following the doctors and nurses from examination room to examination room while being examined there later that day.

                Had they said "Go hom

            • Unfortunately, my doctor wasn't in that day and I was sent home (by a rather young doctor, rather fresh from the med school) with a prescription for cough syrup instead of a penicillin shot.

              Why would you think a doctor would give you penicillin for a viral infection? Do you know how antibiotics work?

              • by denzacar (181829)

                Same reason they later kept me on glucose for several days while allowing me to eat solid food - just in case and cause it fit the symptoms of an infection.
                In this case, it took out the bacterial infection of the heart muscle for which the influenza opened up the doors.
                Cough syrup on the other hand did diddly squat.

                • by RockDoctor (15477)

                  Cough syrup on the other hand did diddly squat.

                  IT worked perfectly, you mean?

                  cough syrup is meant to do diddly squat. It's a placebo. It comes in bottles, can taste nasty or horrible, and is a bright colour . All perfect placebo packaging. Possibly a very slight dose of topical painkiller for the throat, but otherwise, diddly squat.

                  • A "topical painkiller for the throat" in on itself makes it NOT a placebo but a painkiller for symptomatic relief.
                    And syrups which require prescription (not over the counter) tend to be based on some form of an antibiotic.

                    The main issue is the kind of antibiotic in the syrup and the dosage. Followed closely by the method of administration.
                    Dosage is usually 2-3 times lower when the antibiotic is taken orally instead of via an intramuscular or intravenous injection.

                    http://www.globalrph.com/penic... [globalrph.com]

                    Ampicillin:
                    Dosing:
                    Infants and Children:
                    Mild-to-moderate infections:
                    I.M., I.V.: 100-150 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 6 hours (maximum: 2-4 g/day) .
                    Oral: 50-100 mg/kg/day in doses divided every 6 hours (maximum: 2-4 g/day) .
                    Severe infections/meningitis: I.M., I.V.: 200-400 mg/kg/day in divided doses every 6 hours (maximum: 6-12 g/day)

                    On top of

            • You need to read a bit more carefully because you cited the number of severe cases, not the total number of cases. That same report says that 5-10% of adults get it annually, and 20-30% of children. If we go with the lowest number of infected, 5%, and multiple it by the 7 billion on this planet, we have 350 million. With the high estimate of half a million deaths, that clocks in around 0.14% mortality. Take out the high risk groups and that number is even lower.
              • by denzacar (181829)

                You are working with rather imaginary numbers there.

                For one, 5 percent of adults and whatever-percent of children won't give you that 5% number to multiply it with 7 billion.
                And second, death tends to be a severe case. A VERY severe case.
                Does WHO discount those deaths from severe cases? I don't know. They didn't say.

                But it is a much more accurate shorthand to assume a correlation between the number of severe cases and the number of deaths and compare those numbers as percentages of the same population than

                • No, every number except for the world population and the final calculated number for mortality rate is from that WHO report. I used the numbers most favorable to producing a high mortality rate, and the number I got was far less than your 8-10% death rate (which would possibly be an accurate rate for severe cases). You can argue that the influenza is a big concern, but the numbers suggest that people with healthy immune systems don't die of influenza very often.

                  Another thing to keep in mind is the avai
                  • by denzacar (181829)

                    No, every number except for the world population and the final calculated number for mortality rate is from that WHO report.

                    About the same way that every letter is in the alphabet.

                    I used the numbers most favorable to producing a high mortality rate

                    No you didn't.

                    If we go with the lowest number of infected, 5%, and multiple it by the 7 billion on this planet, we have 350 million.

                    You used imaginary numbers for determining your supposed population, and you purposefully used lowest numbers which you've also imagined.
                    Those numbers are nowhere to be found in the WHO report.

                    THIS is what the report says. Again...

                    Influenza occurs globally with an annual attack rate estimated at 5% - 10% in adults and 20% - 30% in children.

                    NOT 5% of 7.2 billion.
                    5-10% of adults (so "most favorable to producing a high mortality rate" would be 10% based on adults alone) and 20-30% of children (where "most favorable to pro

            • Remember, penicillin is not an effective treatment for Influenza
              or other viral infections. There are some secondary infections
              where penicillin or another antibiotic has value BUT penicillin is
              not an effective treatment for Influenza.

              This Ebola thing is dangerous... it is lethal enough
              and contagious enough to totally upend the health care
              and economic systems of the UK, France, Germany, US,
              Russia, Japan...

              Most modern nations do not have infrastructure that permits
              long term quarantine of all but a small ha

              • by denzacar (181829)

                Yet, there was never a case of ebola in humans which originated outside of Africa and the total number of deaths EVER is counted in thousands FOR ALL THIS TIME and not in hundreds of thousands EACH YEAR.
                There's a clue there regarding the nature of the disease. I.e. It's quick and deadly - it does not get to spread far.

                And African nations which are currently dealing with, and which have historically had to deal with ebola outbreaks don't have "infrastructure that permits long term quarantine of all but a sma

            • So I guess we shouldn't worry about Ebola either coz you don't think you'll ever get it either? Check your hipster-holier-then-thou-attitude at the door mate.

              Influenza infects hundreds of millions of people every year, but kills only a tiny fraction of them. To die of influenza you need to have complicating conditions. The type you had are curable with drugs we already have. The type which aren't are the type of lifestyle or age related issues which are a problem no matter who gets them, and regardless of w

              • by denzacar (181829)

                So I guess we shouldn't worry about Ebola either coz you don't think you'll ever get it either? Check your hipster-holier-then-thou-attitude at the door mate.

                How about you check your words at your mouth and refrain from putting it into other people's mouths? Mate.
                We should not panic about ebola. We SHOULD worry more about the flu, as it clearly kills hundreds of thousands each year.

                How easy/hard to die from a disease is not an issue - it's how easily it spreads and IS it deadly.
                Ebola is not airborne, it happens only in certain parts of Africa, it requires direct contact for transfer, and it is deadly.
                Flu on the other hand, IS airborne, does NOT require direct co

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        Five of the authors of this paper died of Ebola, including one who did not work with any patients or samples directly.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Its usually high mortality rate makes it slow to propagate, since it tends to kill the host before they can spread it much.

        100% Wrong- The incubation period can be as long as three weeks, and can be spread by 'recovered' patients for up to 7 weeks after they appear healthy.
        The slow rate of spread is primarily because it requires very close contact with body fluids to transmit, and because the infected don't begin transmitting it until near the end of the incubation period.

        Ebola is scary not because of what it is NOW, but because of what it might mutate into.

    • Re:Dangerous virus (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ultranova (717540) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @11:05AM (#47790855)

      Of all people, experts of the disease take precautions to avoid catching it themselves, when they do, its not a good sign.

      Maybe. Then again, where I work it's the new guys who follow safety guidelines religiously, while those who have been there for a while can't be bothered because, after all, nothing's happened this far so it must be safe.

      Experts are humans, and humans are notoriously bad at keeping their guard up with familiar things.

    • by quenda (644621)

      The fact that so many experts on the disease die of it

      TFS is misleading; no experts have died. The "authors" is a very long list of names, like the credits at the end of a movie.

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