Via The New York Times: Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations, Study Finds. Excerpt:
Fears that the current Ebola epidemic, the deadliest in history, was caused by a more lethal, fast-moving or easily transmissible virus than in previous outbreaks appear to be unfounded, according to a new study.
The study, a genetic analysis published in the journal Science on Thursday, is based on data that indicates the virus has mutated over time in a way that is similar to that of previous, smaller outbreaks.
Researchers say studies of more cases and more recent ones are still needed to confirm these findings. But the new analysis offers encouraging evidence that tests used to diagnose Ebola patients, and vaccines and drugs being developed to prevent and treat the disease, can continue to be based on the typical mutation rate.
It also means worries about doomsday scenarios, like the virus becoming transmissible by air seem unlikely, experts say.
“It hasn’t become increasingly lethal or increasingly virulent,” said David Safronetz, an author of the study and a staff scientist for the Laboratory of Virology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “The virus — it’s doing what it’s always done.”
Essentially, the study indicates, while this outbreak has infected 24,000 people and killed about 10,000, its scale has to do with where the epidemic erupted — at the intersection of three vulnerable countries — rather than with any unusual characteristics of the virus itself.