Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Mutation in the Ebola Virus Made Humans its Primary Target

In 2013, hell broke loose in West Africa in the form of a severe Ebola outbreak. Prior to 2013, outbreaks had never infected more than 600 people. This outbreak, however, infected over 28,000 western Africans. Other than the fact that this outbreak had reached major cities, there is another explanation for why it was so massive. The Ebola virus naturally targets fruit bats, but there is scientific evidence that the virus underwent mutations making it better suited for humans. 

A mutation was discovered in the virus's surface protein that allows it to bind to cells. This discovery was made in a study led by Harvard University's Pardis Sabeti and the University of Massachusetts's Jeremy Luban. The two geneticists tested this gene in an experiment and found that cells that were injected with this mutant gene affected humans far more easily than cells with the ancestral gene. According to Sabeti, these results "raise the possibility that this mutation contributed directly to greater transmission and thus to the severity of the outbreak." The scientists agree that there is still plenty of research to do, but something must be done before another, possibly deadlier, outbreak occurs.

The Ebola virus is a severe, often fatal disease in humans. It can be spread from animals to humans or from humans to humans. As the 2013 outbreak showed, it can spread very quickly. I agree with Sabeti and Luban in that a virus that is this deadly should be stopped before another outbreak occurs. Scientists from all around the world should do everything in their power to research this new mutation and solidify an effective treatment. 

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