The Ebola virus is changing- but researchers aren’t quite sure what that means yet. Could the virus be mutating in a way that’s making it more contagious?
By analyzing blood samples from people who have been infected by the disease, scientists are trying to determine how it’s being transmitted. They’re using genetic sequencing to monitor genetic changes in the virus. This research may also provide some clues as to why some people are able to survive after contracting the virus and others aren’t.
Why should mutating viruses be a problem? Well, in this case, scientists are worried that the virus could be able to spread more easily. Geneticist Dr. Anavaj Sakuntabhai notes, “A virus can change itself to less deadly, but more contagious and that’s something we are afraid of.” Researchers also have to look at the mutations carefully to make sure that any potential drugs or vaccines would still be effective.
Fortunately, the kind of mutations it would take to make Ebola airborne are much more significant than what researchers are currently seeing. No other blood borne virus has mutated to become airborne, either. Ebola is still spread only through direct contact with infected body fluids. It’s also comforting to know that scientists have the tools at their disposal to carefully monitor the status of this changing virus. Read more about Ebola concerns here.