Ebola genomes study suggests virus is mutating fast

By Shruti Saxena | Updated: Aug 29, 2014, 10:53 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Shruti Saxena

New Delhi: The deadly virus, Ebola has induced panic all over the world. Ever thought where did this Ebola virus come from?

According to WHO, caseload in West Africa's epidemic could eventually top 20,000.

Researchers at the Broad Institute and Harvard University, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation, have studied sequenced 99 genomes collected from 78 patients who have been struck by the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone. The research is important as it may provide clues as to how did the deadly virus originated and also information about its transmission.

The samples collected suggest that the outbreak began from a single person, subsequently spreading from person to person. Also, they found 300 genetic changes, that make this outbreak distinct from previous Ebola outbreaks.

The current viral strains responsible for the outbreak can be traced to a dozen individuals who attended a funeral of an Ebola patient in Guinea.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst on record since its first outreak in 1976.

The genetic data shows that the Ebola strains responsible for the current outbreak are distinct, with unique mutations, but that they likely have a common ancestor traced to the first recorded outbreak in 1976.

More than 1,552 people have been killed and 3,000 infected in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization`s latest toll.

By far, there are no proven vaccines or cure available for Ebola. The US government will start initial human trials of an Ebola vaccine next week.