Don't touch that monkey!!

on Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today I will share information with you about a creature that i find quite fascinating; the Ebola virus. Although the Ebola virus can be incredibly lethal, from a scientific point of view its mechanism of attack and symptoms it cause are very interesting. In the first slide i show the electron micrograph image of the Ebola Virus. The Ebola virus belongs to the diverse filoviral hemorrhagic fever group, which is just one family of RNA viruses. There is also a quote from Nobel Laureate Dr. Lederberg,

" The single biggest threat to man's continued dominance on this planet is the virus".

This quote is very true because our nations biggest fear is biological warfare, which has the potential to decimate a whole nation in just a few days.

We actually had a big Ebola pandemic scare in the United States in 1989 when monkeys at a lab in Reston Virgina were infected by the Reston Ebola Virus (REBOV). Luckily for us this strain was not pathogenic to humans, unlike other outbreak strains in Africa.
There were four major outbreak locations in Africa and each one was deemed a different strain name based on pathogenic ability and location. They are Zaire Ebola Virus (ZEBOV) 1976, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formally known as Zaire. The Sudan virus (SEBOV) 1976, located in Sudan. The Cote d'lvoire Ebola virus (CIEBOV) 1994, located on the West coast of Africa in the Republic of Cote d'lvoire commonly known as the Ivory Coast. The fourth strain is Bundibugyo Ebola virus 2007, located in the Bundibugyo district of Uganda. Most of these strains have had multiple outbreaks, with the most recent one being Bundibugyo virus in 2008. The symptoms of Ebola Virus start out similar to the common cold with fever and discomfort; however, these symptoms become progressively worse with severe bleeding, sclerosis, discoloration of the skin, and severe diarrhea. Most individuals die from shock; however, during the care for this patient the virus can be passed through bodily fluids and unsterilized equipment. A basic mechanism of the Ebola virus's attack is it attaches its glycoproteins to the host receptors and hijacks the machinery to begin replication.

What can be done when you get infected with Ebola? Currently there is no approved treatment for the virus, fortunately the Ebola virus has a very slow changing rate compared to the influenza virus so ongoing studies are being conducted. There are a few possible treatments developed, such as small interfering RNAs and Morpholino antisense drugs (which were not affective on humans but they were on primates); however, they are not yet approved for human use. Unfortunately, there outbreaks will most likely continue since there are natural reservoirs of the Ebola virus such as monkeys, bats, and other animals (so don't touch a monkey, especially if you are in Africa). The two major organizations involved in regulating pandemics are the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

If you would like to learn more information about the Ebola virus it's symptoms and personal encounters, i recommend reading The Hot Zone written by Richard Preston. There are also a lot of other great books such as Ebola (i do not remember the author).

Richard Preston, The Hot Zone


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