Johns Hopkins Prof Explains What Makes Ebola So Dangerous

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Ebola scare

Although there’s some evidence that the spread of Ebola virus in West Africa is starting to slow down, the current outbreak is likely to result in tens of thousands of deaths.

There are a number of reasons this particular strain of this particular virus has been so deadly to humans, according to Johns Hopkins associate professor of microbiology and immunology Andrew Pekosz. First of all, the virus has a very high mutation rate in humans, which makes the virus more adaptable–and thus more dangerous.

“This is probably because the virus has not replicated in humans for this long a period of time before,” Pekosz explained to the Hopkins Hub. These mutations might actually result in the virus becoming less deadly–because killing fewer of its hosts might make it spread more efficiently. “It is very difficult to predict what kinds of ‘advantages’ would benefit the virus but becoming less deadly is something that has been seen in many other outbreaks,” Pekosz says.

That said, Ebola is likely to continue to induce disease because the virus spreads through fluids–in other words, the virus can’t transmit if it doesn’t cause serious symptoms. That said, according to Pekosz, “It is extremely unlikely it will mutate to spread like influenza because that is a very difficult thing for most viruses to do.”

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