In DepthInfectious Diseases

Delays hinder Ebola genomics

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Science  07 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6210, pp. 684-685
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6210.684

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Summary

As the Ebola epidemic sweeps through West Africa, scientists lack key genetic data to answer a question that has provoked much worried speculation: Is the virus becoming more transmissible or more deadly, or acquiring changes that would let it evade diagnostic tests or vaccines? Thousands of blood samples from Ebola patients have been sitting in refrigerators in Africa and Europe, untouched. And, as Science went to press, the few groups that have new sequence data have not made them public. Researchers are eager for a close-up look at how the virus may be evolving. Besides answering questions about its virulence, genomic data could reveal details about the epidemic, including hotspots of transmission and how often the virus has escaped from its animal reservoir to humans. But faced with the all-consuming public health response to the epidemic, bureaucratic obstacles, and chaotic record keeping, scientists have had to wait.