Genetic Changes Found In The Ebola Virus Could Hinder Potential Treatments

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Genetic mutations in Ebola could interfere with potential new treatments for the killer virus, according to a study.

The research findings, published in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, have identified changes in the current West African outbreak strain.

“We wanted to highlight an area where genomic drift, the natural process of evolution on this RNA virus genome, could affect the development of therapeutic countermeasures,” says Gustavo Palacios, director of the Centre for Genome Sciences at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Maryland.

Many of the promising drugs being developed to fight Ebola bind to and target a piece of the virus’s genetic sequence.

If that sequence changes during the natural evolution of the virus then the drugs may not work effectively.

“Our work highlights the genetic changes that could affect these sequence-based drugs that were originally designed in the early 2000s based on virus strains from outbreaks in 1976 and 1995,” says Palacios.

US Army Captain Jeffrey Kugelman, a lead author and a viral geneticist, is currently in Charlesville, Liberia, at the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research.

He’s working with the local government to set up onsite genomics sequencing of Ebola patient samples to get a real-time picture of how the virus changes as it is transmitted from human to human.

“The virus mutates rapidly and it’s an ongoing concern,” he says.

A last report, 8,414 had died from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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