Simple evolutionary study may predict path of Ebola outbreaks

| 4 Comments

Ebola is one of my favorite pathogens. With the reputation it has, many people assume it’s killed many more worldwide than it actually has. People hear of Ebola and all kinds of grotesque images come to mind: organs “liquefying” (doesn’t really happen quite like that); bleeding from every orifice (okay, that one can be on-target); the victims dying a horrible death from a virus with an incredibly high mortality rate. There are four known subtypes of Ebola, named for their place of isolation: Ebola Reston, Ivory Coast, Sudan, and Zaire. Together with their cousin, the Marburg virus, they make up the family of viruses known as filoviruses.

Marburg was the first of these to be recognized, causing an outbreak in Germany (caused by infected African research monkeys) in 1967. The Ebola Zaire strain (EBO-Z) and the Ebola Sudan strain (EBO-S) surfaced at almost the same time in 1976. The outbreak in Zaire resulted in 319 cases (90% mortality), while in Sudan, 284 cases were identified (53% mortality rate). EBO-Z then wasn’t seen for almost 20 years, re-surfacing in Gabon in 1994, and once again in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1995. Another EBO-Z outbreak occurred in 2001-2 in Gabon and The Republic of Congo, causing about 120 cases, 79% of them fatal. Overall, less than 2000 known human infections and 1100 deaths have resulted from Ebola since its discovery in 1976. That’s an average of 38 deaths worldwide per year over the last 29 years. Compare that to a virus such as influenza, which kills 36,000 every year in the United States alone. Or even a fairly common microbe like E. coli, which causes thousands of deaths each year due to bacterial sepsis. Worse, none of these even come close to malaria, which causes over 200 deaths worldwide every hour. The numbers make it clear that, as far as mortality goes, Ebola is small potatoes—we have more to fear from our hamburger than from this exotic African virus. Yet, the Ebola mystique lingers.

Continue reading at Aetiology

4 Comments

Tara,

Well I’ve waited over 8 hours, and nobody has risen to the bait, but somebody has got to say it:

“Ebola is one of my favorite pathogens.”

You *really* need to get out more. :)

Shenda

Say that with a mouthful of Ebola :)

Not directed to you but the curious thing about ID’ers is their total lack of curiosity, but then that might be because of their total lack of talent.

ZOMG EVOLUTION CAUSES EBOLA!!!!!

(seriously, i was explaining antibiotic resistance to this lady and she decided that it was “proof” that evolution is evil… I just kinda let it go at that point)

shenda Wrote:

Tara,

Well I’ve waited over 8 hours, and nobody has risen to the bait, but somebody has got to say it:

“Ebola is one of my favorite pathogens.”

You *really* need to get out more. :)

Ha! :) To give credit where credit is due, Skip did comment over on Aetiology that I was “zany.” I just find it to be a fascinating topic. I also recently finished writing a book on the topic, so everytime a new paper comes out, my first thought is that I wish I could have included that.

K.E. Wrote:

Not directed to you but the curious thing about ID’ers is their total lack of curiosity, but then that might be because of their total lack of talent.

I hate to make such a sweeping generalization. I’m sure there are some out there who are good scientists, but for whatever reason, have some fundamental disconnect. From ones I’ve spoken with, it seems that ID is okay to try to insert into other people’s research, but their field doesn’t need it, or something.

kay Wrote:

(seriously, i was explaining antibiotic resistance to this lady and she decided that it was “proof” that evolution is evil… I just kinda let it go at that point)”

Mmm hmmm. But if God or “the designer” created it, it’s “good?” I don’t get the logic there. (I’m sure she didn’t either!)

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on November 3, 2005 9:57 AM.

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