Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Medicine Biotech

Scientists Found the Origin of the Ebola Outbreak 86

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.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Found the Origin of the Ebola Outbreak

Comments Filter:
  • 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.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Saturday August 30, 2014 @11:50AM (#47790977) Journal
    Some medical workers are in fact spreading the disease.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @02:24PM (#47791725)

    Posting anonymously because I don't really want to be associated with this bleak, black writing. Yet I think perhaps it is time to jam these thoughts into the public discourse.

    So the current ebola outbreak originated from a strain located about 3,000 miles east of current patient #0 and its mortality rate is siginificantly lower, from around 90% to around 67%, which actually improves its infection rate, IIRC.

    Am I wrong, or is this consistent with what one would expect if the virus had been weaponized? Between deaths directly due to the disease and deaths due to the collapse of infrastructure caused by the disease, a large area in western Africa that is rich in resources is being depopulated and becoming available for a massive land grab. The first group to establish isolated and fortified enclaves while the current society crumbles, the first group that is willing to shoot to kill any possible carrier of the disease who approaches their enclaves' walls, could take over and defend itself against all adversaries. There are groups not too far away in northern Nigeria that are openly talking about establishing a Caliphate in western Africa, using if necessary a full out Jihad where infidels could be lawfully slaughtered without cause. Ebola might be seen as a Holy Intervention From Above in certain well-armed groups.

    Or maybe Western Medicine is going to pull a rabbit out of its hat and develop, prepare, and deliver enough vaccine to stop ebola in its tracks. Currently WHO says that in 6 months it will have some kind of a plan for dealing with ebola-- and presumably the secondary deaths due to malnutrition from closed markets and disease from failed sewage and water treatment-- and there will only be 20,000 dead by that time. By the time when the planning phase is completed, and the plan is ready to be put into action. It really sounds like WHO has no rabbit in hand and is talking through its hat.

The optimum committee has no members. -- Norman Augustine