A new genome-sequencing study of the Ebola cases in West Africa provides more information about the recent flare-ups of the disease and their source. Genome sequencing of the individuals most recently affected with Ebola finds that the most recent samples taken from patients are similar to other Ebola Virus sequences from Western Africa. Genomic analysis and epidemiologic investigation indicate that the March 2015 and June 2015 outbreaks were a re-emergence of a Liberian transmission chain from a persistently-infected source.
This study had a couple interesting implications. First, it points to a need to better study and understand the persistence of Ebola and similar diseases in infected individuals, and the routes of transmission from “protected sites” as we have been discussing in class. Understanding this emphasizes the risk for new flare-ups and a need for a new strategy. Since we are lucky to have a number of survivors from the recent epidemic, we should remain vigilant and continue research efforts so that we can prevent future outbreaks and plan a long-term ebola strategy.
The second important take-away from this paper is the value of genomic sequencing in the midst of an outbreak as a new form of epidemiologic intelligence. New medical technologies and sequencing are still not very affordable in developing countries, and instances like this provide an urge for us to find ways to make technology accessible around the world. New technologies are wonderful, and definitely have the potential to improve human health. Unfortunately, it also has the potential to broaden health disparities unless we make a great effort to incorporate disadvantaged populations in technology development from the onset.