- Ugandan and US scientists report the discovery of a new species of Ebola virus, provisionally named Bundibugyo ebolavirus, which was said to be responsible for Uganda's 2007 Ebola outbreak.
Researchers from the Uganda Ministry of Health and several US scientific institutions have studied the unusual Ebola outbreak in the country in 2007, which did not fit into known patterns of transmitting and mortality rates. The results, published today in the scientific journal 'PLoS Pathogens', show that the hemorrhagic fever outbreak was caused by an unknown variety of the deadly virus.
The new virus was said to be "genetically distinct from all other known Ebola virus species, differing by more than 30 percent at the genetic level."
More traditional ELISA-based assays had detected the new virus; however, the unique nature of this virus hade created initial challenges for traditional Ebola virus molecular diagnostic assays and genome sequencing approaches. To determine the genetic signature of this new Ebola virus species, scientists used a recently developed random-primed pyro-sequencing approach, quickly determining the genetic sequence of over 70 percent of the virus genome.
Knowledge of this sequence then had allowed for the rapid development of a sensitive molecular detection assay which was deployed to the field as part of the outbreak response. This draft sequence also allowed for easy completion of the whole genome sequence using a traditional primer walking approach and "prompt confirmation that this virus represented a new Ebola virus species," according to the scientists.
"Current worldwide efforts to design effective diagnostics, antivirals and vaccines will need to take into account the distinct nature of this new member of the Ebola virus genus," the research team holds.
Ebola virus infection in humans causes severe disease for which there is presently no vaccine or other treatment. Case fatalities range historically between 53 and 90 percent. Therefore, research efforts into the Ebola virus genus and potential diagnostics are ongoing, with the discovery of Bundibugyo ebolavirus representing one of the latest pieces added to this puzzle.
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