BETHESDA, Md. (CBS DC) — New research on the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa suggests that the virus is not becoming more severe or transmissible, according to a National Institutes of Health study in Science.
The study suggests that the virus circulating in humans in the West African region is undergoing few mutations based on samples taken from patients in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Mali from March 2014 to November 2014.
“The Ebola virus in the ongoing West African outbreak appears to be stable—that is, it does not appear to be mutating more rapidly than viruses in previous Ebola outbreaks, and that is reassuring,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “We look forward to additional information to validate this finding, because understanding and tracking Ebola virus evolution are critical to ensuring that our scientific and public health response keeps pace.”
Researchers say obtaining samples from infected individuals during the outbreak was difficult and that the study relies on data from Guinea, Sierra Leone, in addition to two cluster samples from Mali.
The study from NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories suggests that despite extensive human-to-human transmission of the virus, Ebola does not appear to be mutating at an alarming rate or increasing virulence. Also reassuring, the research shows that it is unlikely for diagnostic measures to be impaired or affect the success of vaccines and treatments.
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus is responsible for 24,000 confirmed, suspected or probable cases in West Africa and has claimed 10,000 lives as of early March.