Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations, Study Finds

Maggie McKelvy                                                                                March 27, 2015
Core Biology C Odd                                                                           Mrs. McClellan

Belluck, Pam. "Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations, Study Finds." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

The article “Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations” by Pam Belluck discusses and refutes the argument that the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak was more “lethal, fast-moving, and transmissible” than previous ones. Belluck explains that these claims appear to lack proper scientific evidence. A study published in the journal Science on Thursday includes data from a genetic analysis of the Ebola virus from the current outbreak that suggests that the virus is mutating similarly to the virus in smaller outbreaks. Although more studies will be needed to support these claims, the news that this virus retained the typical mutation rate is great for those trying to combat the disease. The study analyzed the change in the virus over time, starting with cases in Mali in October and November 2014 and working backwards to cases in Guinea in March and Sierra Leone in June. The scientists found that the virus did not mutate faster than the virus from other outbreaks, as previously thought. Instead, researchers are blaming the turmoil, lack of proper health care, and poverty of the areas ravaged by the disease as the main cause for the alarming rates of infection. As of now, the virus has infected 24,000 people and has killed approximately 10,000.
The results of this study, if supported by further research, have major implications for the development of treatment and a vaccine for Ebola. If this particular virus had a significantly faster mutation range than typical, it would be hard for scientists to develop a treatment and vaccine that would be effective for long, because the virus would keep mutating. However, since the current virus appears to be mutating at average rates, scientists are still on course for finding a treatment for this horrific disease. Furthermore, because the disease appears to not be able to mutate at a higher than average rate, the chances that the virus will become transmittable by air are severely decreased. Obviously, this type of “doomsday situation” would have devastating consequences for the entire world, and if this were the case, we may see results similar to the horror caused by the bubonic plague. 
This article did a good job of explaining the study recently published and the implications this new data has on vaccine and treatment development. It also did a good job of giving a counterexample with previous data in order to refute it. It would have been helpful to have information about previous studies that concluded that the disease was, in fact, mutating at a high rate to compare the data from the different studies and make an educated guess about what the disease might do in the future. It also would have been beneficial to have data and information about previous Ebola outbreaks to see how the current one compares. 

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