Recognise and control new variants of the deadly Ebola virus more quickly

February 06, 2020

The situation is extraordinary: there have only ever been four declarations of public health emergencies of international concern in the past and now there are two at the same time. Whilst the risks associated with the novel coronavirus are still unclear, people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are still battling with an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus which has been ongoing since 2018 and has already claimed over 2000 lives. One issue is the precise characterisation of the pathogen because the ebolaviruses, like lots of viruses, appear in various genetic forms. Only the analysis of its genetic material provides the information necessary to develop specific tests for diagnosis and decide on efficient measures for controlling the outbreak. A German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) team at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin has now developed a test which accelerates the process of identifying the genetic makeup of the virus.

There have been multiple Ebola outbreaks in the last decades. Since 2013, at least eight countries have been affected and 30,000 people have contracted the virus. The origin of these outbreaks is often unclear and they are caused by various ebolavirus variants. "At the moment, it often takes months to develop the right tools to fully characterise the genetic material of the ebolavirus causing an outbreak" explains Professor Jan Felix Drexler, a scientist at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) and Charité. "However, this knowledge is crucial for developing specific diagnostic tests, identifying transmission chains and eventually controlling the outbreak."

The scientists in Professor Drexler's team have now developed a test which provides information about the genetic material of new ebolaviruses regardless of the species or the variant, that is, of the genetic makeup. The test is based on the commonly used polymerase chain reaction (PCR), using which the genetic material can be amplified in a manner that allows precise sequencing. The new test is compatible with various technical procedures such as high-throughput sequencing. It has been tested with four different ebolavirus species.

"In cases in which different regions and countries are affected by outbreaks of this kind in particular, it is necessary to establish whether the case in question relates to the spread of a previously known variant of the virus or a new outbreak," explains the virologist. This is exactly what the new test can now determine in one process. "Both in the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in future outbreaks, we may now be able to characterise the trigger more quickly and take appropriate effective measures to end the outbreak," says the scientist.
-end-
Scientists from Charité and Marburg DZIF are involved in the current study within the framework of the DZIF working group on "Virus detection and preparedness" and have the use of a high-security laboratory which is equipped for research into highly contagious viruses. The research work was carried out in partnership with the rapidly deployable health expert group (SEEG) at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and, in addition to the DZIF, it also received funding from the EU and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The establishment of the method in the GIZ global partner laboratories is currently being tested.

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Related Virus Articles from Brightsurf:

Researchers develop virus live stream to study virus infection
Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute and Utrecht University developed an advanced technique that makes it possible to monitor a virus infection live.

Will the COVID-19 virus become endemic?
A new article in the journal Science by Columbia Mailman School researchers Jeffrey Shaman and Marta Galanti explores the potential for the COVID-19 virus to become endemic, a regular feature producing recurring outbreaks in humans.

Smart virus
HSE University researchers have found microRNA molecules that are potentially capable of repressing the replication of human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 - The virus and the vasculature
In severe cases of COVID-19, the infection can lead to obstruction of the blood vessels in the lung, heart and kidneys.

Lab-made virus mimics COVID-19 virus
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a virus in the lab that infects cells and interacts with antibodies just like the COVID-19 virus, but lacks the ability to cause severe disease.

Virus prevalence associated with habitat
Levels of virus infection in lobsters seem to be related to habitat and other species, new studies of Caribbean marine protected areas have shown.

Herpes virus decoded
The genome of the herpes simplex virus 1 was decoded using new methods.

A new biosensor for the COVID-19 virus
A team of researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and Zurich University Hospital has succeeded in developing a novel sensor for detecting the new coronavirus.

How at risk are you of getting a virus on an airplane?
New 'CALM' model on passenger movement developed using Frontera supercomputer.

Virus multiplication in 3D
Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies.

Read More: Virus News and Virus Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.