Recent studies discovered that a single Ebola virus mutation might have contributed to the outbreak which affected the African continent as it made the disease easier to spread to humans.
The discovery was the result of two studies which were published in the Cell Journal and which revealed that early on, the Ebola virus suffered a mutation which allowed for its easier transmission to humans.
According to one of the studies’ lead authors, University of Massachusetts Medical School virologist, Jeremy Luban the biggest difference between the base version of the virus and its mutation was the latter’s fourfold increase in the number of infected cells.
As the Ebola outbreak that appeared in late 2013 and spread over West Africa was faster and more widespread than any other previous such events, researchers also started studying the virus early on.
In accordance with the apparent behavior of most viruses, the Ebola virus started mutating, but scientists could not determine if it was becoming more dangerous, deadly, or transmissible.
As the Harvard University computational biologists which first started studying the virus could find no further information Luban and another team of researchers started analyzing the Ebola virus mutation.
The other team of was composed of United Kingdom’s University of Nottingham scientists and was led by Jonathan Ball.
According to their research, the mutation suffered by the Ebola virus made if far easier to spread to humans, as it may have potentially adapted to them. But the scientists are uncertain if this has also made it more deadly.
With the mutation being linked to a possible increase in mortality rates, another scientist maintains that the rise is slight enough so as to offer inconclusive results and not come to mean a direct link between the two.
Vincent Racaniello, a Columbia University virologist, declared that although a direct connection between mortality rates and the Ebola virus mutation was not demonstrated, the fact alone that it generated such an outbreak seems and is quite enough.
According to the same Racaniello, the mutated version of the virus was stopped as the outbreak is over. As no new cases of Ebola have been registered and no new mutant virus infections appeared, scientists are quite sure that the mutated version also died out.
The reason for this belief comes not only from the stopped outbreak but also from the mutated virus itself.
The scientists studying the Ebola virus mutation determined that the same modification which determined its easier spread in humans also accounted for its not spreading to animals.
That is, the new mutation prevented its being transmitted to the animal cell which would make it quite difficult if not improbable for it to be lurking in bats or other animals so as to start another outbreak.
This would mean that as soon as the West Africa outbreak and epidemic were over, so was the Ebola virus mutation, which should only make one feel thankful.
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