Via NPR's Shots blog: Virus Sleuths Chip Away At Ebola Mysteries. Excerpt:
Vincent Racaniello, who studies viruses at Columbia University, says Ebola has recently become his obsession.
"I find myself reading incessantly about Ebola when I should be doing other things," says Racaniello, host of the online show This Week in Virology, which has devoted several recent programs to Ebola.
The unprecedented Ebola outbreak probably has more virologists thinking about Ebola than ever before. And while scientists have learned a lot about this virus since it was discovered almost four decades ago, there's still a lot left to wonder about.
Racaniello and his virologist buddies wish they knew some really basic things — like, how does the virus actually slip into cells? What part of the cell's surface does it latch onto to get access? Knowing that might let scientists figure out ways to block it.
And how do outbreaks of Ebola actually start? "This is a really important question," says Racaniello,"because if we could figure out where the virus comes from we might be able to take measures to stop that."
Scientists believe the virus circulates in fruit bats, which seem to carry Ebola without getting sick. But no one knows the details of how bats pass it to humans or other species.
"We know for sure that gorillas and chimpanzees and some antelope have been infected with Ebola in the past," says veterinarian and epidemiologist Jonathan Epstein of EcoHealth Alliance, an organization devoted to understanding and predicting the emergence of diseases. "But the mechanism for spillover isn't totally clear, and so that's an area where more study needs to be done."