The Ebola outbreak of 2014 (Contd.)

Following up on the previous post here are some more detail on the recent Science paper along with a round-up of “what do we know, what have we learned” thus far.

The Gire et al paper in Science was huge amount of work and a giant collaborative research effort. Being a computational biology researcher, I appreciate their in-depth and detailed evaluation utilizing numerous bioinformatics software tools. Gleaning through the supplemental text, I created the flowchart below as a summary of all the analysis that went into the eventual results and interpretations. This was created using the wonderful Gliffy tool.

ebolaFlowchart of the impressive work accomplished by the Gire et al Science paper (I made this using notes from their Supplemental Data)

A slew of articles summarizing the recent Science paper came out as the hype surrounding WHO warning of this current outbreak hitting 20,000 people caught on. This is huge!! Peter Piot, who co-discovered the Ebola virus during the 1976 outbreak never imagined an outbreak like this, but is confident of ‘high-income countries’ doing just fine.

The Broad Institute and Harvard University worked with Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation along with other researchers to provide the comprehensive paper in Science describing the sequencing of current Ebola genomes. Simultaneously, the human trial on NIH and GSK’s investigational Ebola vaccine is to begin this week, as it performed well on primate studies. Hopefully this one will be faster than the usual 10-year turn-around observed for a vaccine trial. Although the experimental drug ZMapp is being used on the cases, it is with mixed results and much and more still needs to be done. Interestingly the drug is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody and the primate research itself was published in Nature last week. Details of how it seemed to have worked on the 2 US health care workers in the midst of this outbreak is a pretty ‘miraculous’ story!

The major points to note thus far:

  • First Ebola Virus Disease of 2014 confirmed in Sierra Leone on May 25
  • It seems like there was one instance of the EBOV transmitting from the ‘natural reservoir’ to humans and has since been transmitted from human to human (implying there is rare, though present, chance of non-human transmission)
  • Substitution rate is twice as high implying that continued progression of this epidemic could allow a viral adaptation, thus the need for rapid containment
  • The 2014 outbreak has a doubling period of about 35 days!!
  • Complicating matters, positive diagnosis for malaria does not necessarily rule out Ebola Virus Disease
  • Senegal just became the 5th West African country with a confirmed case of Ebola
  • Breaking News: samples from Ebola outbreak in Congo (DRC) were evaluated to have a distinct and independent transmission event, likely via a bushmeat consumption!

Hopefully this is contained sooner rather than later…

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3 thoughts on “The Ebola outbreak of 2014 (Contd.)

    1. Thanks Marc! I have only seen their experiences via news snippets; not sure how accessible internet would be for folks in the midst of things in west Africa!

      1. Well having lived in 5 African countries, there’s not problem with access – and you’ll find that most of the blog commentary is not coming from the affected areas because – I think – people are not ready to talk about it yet. Stigma is very high.

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