The public health crisis of Ebola virus (EBOV) rapidly spreading throughout regions of Africa led Gire et al. (2014) to address this issue in their article “Genomic surveillance elucidates Ebola virus origin and transmission during the 2014 outbreak.” The authors aimed to use new genomic technologies to get quick insight into the 2014 West African EBOV outbreak to gather information that could potentially find the source of the outbreak and analyze how it is evolving for better treatments and vaccines. The questions they specifically wanted to address is how and where the EBOV was transmitted to the human populations in the most recent outbreak and how the virus has evolved during this period of transmission.
The authors used massively parallel viral deep sequencing to analyze 99 genome sequences from 78 people in Sierra Leone that were diagnosed with EBOV to study how the virus continues to change throughout the outbreak because it allows for a comprehensive dataset that analyzes mutations across individuals and regions, and within a single individual across time by having multiple samples from some individuals across the first month of the outbreak. They find genetic similarity across the samples, which suggest there was a single transmission from the natural reservoir. Their findings reveal that the EBOV outbreak seen in West Africa in 2014 likely stemmed from central Africa EBOV around 2004 and was transmitted to Sierra Leone through Guinea in May 2014. Their analysis also shows common mutations across these samples that could be targets for future treatments.
The media portrayal of this article in Science Daily is accurate in explaining and interpreting the findings.