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New Type of Ebola Virus Discovered

2007 outbreak in Uganda genetically distinct from other known species

FRIDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- A new species of the deadly Ebola virus has been identified by American and Ugandan scientists.

The new virus, called Bundibugyo ebolavirus, caused an outbreak in western Uganda in 2007. It is genetically distinct from all other known Ebola virus species, differing by more than 30 percent at the genetic level, said the scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Columbia University, the Uganda Virus Research Institute, and the Uganda Ministry of Health.

To determine the genetic signature of the new virus, the scientists had to employ a recently developed "random-primed pyro-sequencing" method. Using this, they were able to quickly determine more than 70 percent of the virus genome, which then enabled rapid development of a molecular detection assay that was used during the outbreak.

The draft genetic sequence also led to completion of the entire virus genome sequence using a traditional method and immediate confirmation that this was a new species of Ebola virus. Current efforts to develop effective Ebola diagnostics, antivirals and vaccines will need to factor in the distinct genetic makeup of this new species, the scientists said in an article published Nov. 21 in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Currently, there is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola infection in humans, which has a death rate of between 53 percent and 90 percent.

More information

The CDC has more about Ebola.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: PLoS Pathogens, news release, Nov. 20, 2008

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