This year, a new outbreak was caused by the same Ebola virus that caused the epidemic in West Africa in 2014-2015. This was proven by a genomic comparison of the two viruses, Nature reported.
According to RIA Novosti, a large group of international experts believes that for a long time the virus remained latent in the body of those who had been ill, and then reactivated.
Ebola virus infections have been reported in West Africa since 1976, but the worst outbreak recognized as an epidemic broke out in February 2014 and lasted until December 2015. Then there was a lull for three years, and in May 2018, experts began to diagnose new cases. Another outbreak peaked between February and June 2021. During this time, more than 3,000 people fell ill in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea, and the death rate exceeded 65%.
To determine the source of the virus that caused the new epidemic, a team of international experts led by Dr. Alpha Cabinet Keith of the Center for Infection Research at the University of Conakry in Guinea sequenced 14 genomes of the virus from recently confirmed cases. As it turned out, they are genetically similar to the genomes of the Ebola virus of the previous outbreak.
There are far fewer mutations in these genomes than would be expected if the virus continued to replicate and spread from person to person for the past six years, scientists say. Additional confirmation is the presence in it of characteristic mutations of the 2013 virus, such as, for example, the modification of a glycoprotein that is expressed on the surface of the virus and ensures its penetration into cells.
The results obtained suggest that this is the same virus that reappeared after a long latency period in the body of a person infected during the previous epidemic. Scientists stressed that there is no evidence to support the alternative hypothesis that the new outbreak was due to the fact that the virus again passed from animals to humans.