Ebola: Mutant Virus More Infectious To Humans; Is It More Deadly? [VIDEO]
Studies indicate that the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa is caused by a single mutation in the Ebola virus. The mutant virus proved to be more infectious to men, which accounts for the unstoppable spreading of Ebola to many countries including the United States. If it is more transmissible to people, is it also more deadly?
The Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2013 is considered to be one of the most fast-spreading outbreaks as compared to previous ones. Scientists believe that one factor at play here is that the virus hit a highly populated area. Moreover, the country hit by Ebola has no resources to properly treat and isolate the virus.
Recently, scientists have discovered that the outbreak is caused by a mutation in the Ebola virus. Jeremy Luban of the University of Massachusetts states that it only took a single mutation for the virus to be easily transmissible.
The mutant Ebola virus is able to quickly infect other cells by as much as four times. Luban adds that this kind of mutation is typical behavior for a virus as reported in WPSU. It adapts to its human host by undergoing mutations.
The only cause for concern is whether the mutant virus is more deadly than previous ones. There is no evidence to suggest this for the presence of the mutation only slightly changed the mortality rate.
The biologists at Harvard University have been aware that the gene of the Ebola virus is changing. They just had no way to understand the inner workings of the virus particularly on how it behaves, according to Romper.
It was Luban and fellow scientist, Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, who discovered the single mutation. The two were conducting experiments on mutation using a model of the Ebola virus.
Their findings allowed the Harvard biologists to understand the effects of the mutation during an Ebola outbreak. Here they were able to observe that the mutant Ebola virus is the real culprit in the spreading of the infection.
However, the mutation has its flaw. The virus is able to cling easily to human hosts, but not with animals. The Ebola virus can no longer hide in bats or other animals waiting for the chance to wreak havoc again. This means that once the infection is treated; the mutant Ebola virus goes away completely.