An international team that includes a Danish scientist is making progress in the battle against the ongoing Ebola outbreak that has claimed the lives of more than 1,500 people, mostly in western Africa, so far.
Kristian G Andersen, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University in the US, is part of a team which, via its co-operation with the health ministry in Sierra Leone, has sequenced the genomes of 99 Ebola viruses collected from 78 cases during the outbreak’s initial 24 days.
The researchers found there is proof that the epidemic stems from one single patient, who was infected by an animal – most probably by eating a fruit bat, a local delicacy in some western African countries – before going on to infect other humans.
Speed of mutation
The team also uncovered the speed at which the virus mutates and discovered that it changes quicker during an outbreak. That means that a potential new vaccine could have less of an effect.
”It’s difficult to say precisely how long it takes before the virus mutates to a point where a vaccine no longer works,” Andersen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
“It could be a month, ten years or maybe never. The important thing is that we can begin to comprehend where, how and how fast the virus changes, so we might be able to see if it can have an effect on vaccines, therapy and diagnosis.”
No human testing
Andersen went on to reveal there was a desperate need for vaccines and therapy, and that while there were many vaccines with potential, none had been tested on humans yet.
The researchers will publish their finding in the scientific journal Science today and hope that their data leads to the quick development of a vaccine.