Ebola Mutation Rate Slower than Expected

Ebola is particularly frightening to medical assistants and other healthcare workers because infected people take so long to display symptoms. This means they can infect those around them long before even realizing they are sick. The fatality rate for this disease is very high at around 50%, making this particularly troubling.

Since all medical personnel who come into contact with the Ebola virus are at serious risk, the ability of the organism to respond to potential treatments is of major interest. An initial analysis of the mutation rate of Ebola caused grave concern that the organism was quickly mutating and could become resistant to potential new treatments. Fortunately, however, recent research reported in Science suggests that the mutation rate of the virus is much slower than expected.

While there are currently no vaccines commercially available to prevent this horrific disease, a number are in the pipeline and are undergoing clinical trials. Unfortunately, pathogenic microorganisms often mutate quickly and become resistant to current treatments.

Fortunately, a recent and more thorough study suggests this is not the case. Researchers analyzed the DNA from several disease clusters of the virus in Sierra Leone and Mali. They looked at the variation in samples of the Ebola virus that had infected people over a period of several months. Much to their relief, there was very little variation in the DNA of the organisms.

This suggests that the virus is not quickly changing and is thus more likely to respond to the new vaccines and therapies being developed. This is great news for medical assistants who are on the frontlines of patient interactions.

More good news is coming from clinical trials in which an Ebola vaccine that is being tested on monkeys appears to be successful in the initial phases of the trial. This means there is still lots of hope that modern medicine can help prevent future outbreaks of this highly fatal disease.