In DepthInfectious Diseases

A reassuring snapshot of Ebola

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Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1407
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6229.1407

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As Ebola has taken its horrific toll across West Africa, passing from person to person in its longest known chains of human infections, researchers worried the virus might mutate to become even more threatening. New viral genome data from Mali suggest a glimmer of good news: The Ebola virus that infected eight people there in October and November had not changed significantly from the one that infected people at the beginning of the known outbreak, back in March 2014. Diagnostic tests, experimental antibody-based treatments, and potential vaccines for Ebola are all developed based on the virus's recent sequence. If it were to change too much, cases could go unrecognized, and treatments and vaccines could become ineffective. Mutations might even lead to more dramatic symptoms or allow the virus to pass from person to person more easily. But genome sequences of four recent Ebola virus samples suggest that the virus, so far, has remained fairly stable.