Zee Media Bureau
London: In a scary development in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, scientists tracking the deadly virus in Guinea have warned that the virus has started to mutate.
Researchers at the Institut Pasteur in France, which first identified the outbreak in March 2014, are investigating whether it could have become more contagious, the BBC reported.
Scientists are analyzing hundreds of blood samples from Ebola patients in Guinea in an effort to find out if the new variation poses a higher risk of transmission,
It's not unusual for viruses to change over a period time. Ebola is an RNA virus, like HIV and influenza, which have a high rate of mutation. That makes the virus more able to adapt and raises the potential for it to become more contagious.
Another common concern was that while the virus has more time and more “hosts” to develop in, Ebola could mutate and eventually become airborne.
However, there's no evidence to suggest that this has happened yet, because the virus is still spread only through direct contact with infected people's body fluids.
Hence, to track changes in the genetic make-up of the virus, researchers are using a method called genetic sequencing.
So far they have analyzed around 20 blood samples from Guinea and another 600 samples are being sent to the labs in the coming months.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 8,795 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia while infecting more than 22,000.
Meanwhile, the UN Ebola coordinator David Nabarro has warned that Ebola epidemic is not contained yet, although the number of cases is decreasing week by week and getting zero in many places.
(With Agency inputs)