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Jeremy Luban to New York Times: Ebola mutation fueled rapid spread

  UMMS researchers William Diehl, PhD, and Jeremy Luban, MD

William Diehl, PhD, and Jeremy Luban, MD

UMass Medical School researcher Jeremy Luban, MD, explained to media outlets around the globe the science behind an important discovery published in the journal Cell showing how a mutation of the Ebola virus contributed to the unprecedented scale of the recent West African epidemic.

In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Luban, the David J. Freelander Professor in AIDS Research, professor of molecular medicine and biochemistry & molecular pharmacology, said “The evidence points strongly to the conclusion that Ebola’s mutation helped [the disease] spread more effectively in people.”

“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that it’s an adaptation to the human host,” Luban said.

Previous outbreaks of Ebola have stopped after a few hundred cases. The 2013–16 outbreak resulted in more than 28,000 cases, with more than 11,000 deaths. Luban and colleagues, including William Diehl, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at UMMS, sorted through a large catalogue of Ebola virus genome sequences that had been isolated from victims of the epidemic. One particular mutation was found that arose early in the epidemic, before the number of cases began skyrocketing, and quickly dominated the epidemic. This mutation, GP-A82V, changes the glycoprotein that the Ebola virus uses to enter cells. Indeed, GP-A82V is precisely the mutation with increased infectivity that first attracted Diehl’s attention while studying HIV-1.

The research, published Nov. 3 in the journal Cell, reports findings from a collaborative project involving the labs of Dr. Luban; Kristian Andersen, PhD, of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI); Pardis Sabeti, PhD, of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; and Andrew Rambaut, PhD, of the University of Edinburgh.

A companion paper is published in the same issue of Cell, from Jonathan Ball, PhD, of the University of Nottingham, and colleagues.

For full coverage read here:
New York Times: Ebola Evolved Into Deadlier Enemy During the African Epidemic
NPR: Mutant Ebola May Have Caused Explosive Outbreak
New Scientist: Ebola rapidly evolves to be more transmissible and deadlier
Scientific American: Ebola’s West African Rampage Was Likely Bolstered by a Mutation
Washington Post: The Ebola virus mutated to better infect humans during the 2014 outbreak
Time: How Ebola Got So Deadly
Boston Herald: Kalter: Ebola mutation sparks fear Zika may be next
NBC News: Ebola Mutated During West Africa Epidemic, Studies Find
The Atlantic: How Ebola Adapted to Us
International Business Times: How Ebola adapted to better infect and kill humans during the last outbreak
BBC: Ebola adapted to easily infect people
Worcester Telegram & Gazette: UMass Med researchers may have found clue in latest Ebola outbreakScience Magazine: Has a new mutation in the Ebola virus made it deadlier?

Related story on UMassMedNow:
UMMS study suggests Ebola virus mutation caused recent outbreak