EU team successfully maps genetic evolution of Ebola virus

18 Jun 2015

Working with a budget of €1.7 million from the EU’s research funding programme Horizon 2020, the EVIDENT project mapped the genetic evolution of the Ebola virus in what could be a major breakthrough in eradicating the disease.

The virus made headlines worldwide last year for the devastation it caused in a number of west African countries. It has killed more than 11,000 people to-date and there has been concerns that it could mutate again leading to further deaths.

However, the team behind the EVIDENT project said that it has confirmed that the Ebola virus has mutated at a lower rate than feared during the recent outbreak in west Africa.

This is good news for those fighting it on the ground as it means that the new diagnostic methods, treatments and vaccines under development should still be effective in the fight to eradicate the disease.

Publishing its findings in Nature, the team showed that the virus mutates at a lower rate than previously described, and managed to pinpoint only a few mutations that need further assessment to investigate if they would render vaccines and treatments under development ineffective.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “In the fight against infectious diseases, we have to know our enemy. Effective treatments can only be designed if we know exactly how the Ebola virus mutates. Thanks to EU research funding, the breakthrough study by the EVIDENT project has made a huge step towards eradicating the deadly impact of Ebola. The Ebola outbreak in west Africa showed the entire world that we need to invest more resources into research to fight epidemics.”

Ebola virus image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic