A study of some of the earliest Ebola cases in Sierra Leone reveals more than 300 genetic changes in the virus as it has leapt from person to person.
These rapid changes could blunt the effectiveness of diagnostic tests and experimental treatments now in development, say researchers.
The study is based on samples from 78 people in Sierra Leone, all of whose infections could be traced to a faith healer whose claims of a cure attracted Ebola patients from Guinea, where the virus first took hold.
The findings, published in Science , suggests the virus is mutating quickly and in ways that could affect current diagnostics and future vaccines and treatments, such as GlaxoSmithKline’s Ebola vaccine, which was just fast-tracked to begin clinical trials, or the antibody drug ZMapp, being developed by California biotech Mapp Biopharmaceutical.
Study coauthor Robert Garry of Tulane University says the virus is mutating at twice the rate in people as it was in animal hosts, such as fruit bats.