Genomes reveal start of Ebola outbreak

A young woman arrived at the Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone in late May. She had a high fever and had just suffered a miscarriage. In the course of her treatment, doctors discovered she was infected with Ebola—the first case diagnosed in Sierra Leone. She eventually recovered, but she and the virus she carried are now at the heart of a tragic but potentially important research tale. In a paper online this week in Science, researchers report sequencing and analyzing the genomes of Ebola virus samples from the young woman and 77 other people in the country who were diagnosed with Ebola between late May and mid-June. The sequences provide insights into how the virus is changing during the outbreak, which has infected more than 900 people in Sierra Leone and is still spreading. The sequences could help improve current diagnostic tests and, in the long term, guide researchers working on vaccines and treatments. The work, which involved more than 50 collaborators from four countries, also highlights the unrelenting toll the outbreak has taken on health workers on the front lines. Five of the authors contracted Ebola virus disease themselves and died before the paper was published.

*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicine have made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public.

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Posted in Biology, Health Ebola