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A key finding is that the Ebola virus evolves at a steady evolutionary rate.

Source –Naturedoi:10.1038/nature14490, Chinese Academy of Sciences 

A recent study published in Nature shows the Ebola virus had a rap genetic evolution in Sierra Leone between July and November 2014. According to Asian Scientist, the Chinese government dispatched the China Mobile Laboratory Testing Team per request of the Sierra Leone government in September 2014. “The teams collected over 3,000 samples, with over 800 testing positive for the Ebola virus.”

The team of scientists was led by Professors George F. Gao and Liu Di of the Institute of Microbiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences. They were able to track the evolution of the Ebola virus using Ebola genome sequences from five severely stricken districts in Sierra Leone. According to Asian Scientist, “in order to depict the virus transmission linkage/network in West Sierra Leone and to discern the phylodynamics of the Ebola virus, the researchers sequenced 175 full-length virus genomes. One of their key findings is that the Ebola virus evolves at a steady evolutionary rate. Although an earlier dataset estimating a faster evolutionary rate of the virus had raised concerns that virus would become more harmful, the present study claims that virus evolved at a speed comparable to previous outbreaks. Moreover, scientists noticed that serial nucleotide substitutions were present in some patients, which possibly occurred due to the same evolutionary events. The mechanisms underlying these observations need further investigation. This study provided new insights into the Ebola virus evolution in West Africa. Understanding the genetic diversity and evolutionary dynamics would greatly aid the public to fight against Ebola.” Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: http://www.asianscientist.com/2015/05/in-the-lab/mapping-evolution-2014-ebola-outbreak/

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Right Photo: Medici con l’Africa Cuamm. Creative Commons BY-SA (cropped)


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Watch Raw Science Film Festival 2014 winner NZARA ’76 


Summary: 1976. An unknown outbreak rips through the boarder between Zaire and Sudan, decimating towns in its wake. An international team of doctors responds, discovering a swift, deadly disease from which few survive. The doctors split up, tracking the disease, trying to prevent its spread. Doctor’s James Howell and Peter Franklin track the disease north, over the Sudan boarder. They stumble upon a town ravaged by the disease. With the town in panic and no doctor to help, the small clinic has fallen under the care of the head nurse Nyawela. The doctors quickly find themselves ill-prepared for the severity of the outbreak and resort to extreme measures to stop the disease, including burning bodies. This sets them in direct violation of the towns religious beliefs, wherein the body must be washed and buried as it feels, even after death. But the practice is also directly responsible for spreading the disease. As Nyawela tries to find ways to care for her patients, the doctors distance themselves, not wanting to be mire themselves beyond their mission. While taking samples one night, one of the patients slips into a seizure, causing James’s hand to slip and stab himself with a contaminated needle. Fearing he’s infected, James chooses to stay in the town and continue working rather than attempt evacuation. He soon forced to experience life as a patient, watching as Nzara’s disease slowly becomes his own.

Writer/Director:  Jon Noble was born and raised just outside Washington D.C.. Spending his formative years either in a virology lab or a movie theater, his life has always been split between science and film. Unable to choose between his two passions, Noble went to the University of Rochester, where he dual majored in Biology and Film Studies. Eventually film won out, Noble was accepted to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, graduating with an M.F.A. in 2014. Focusing on production and writing for television. In 2012, Noble was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Student Production Grant, to direct his short script, Nzara ’76, a fictional account of the the first outbreak of Ebola in 1976. He hopes to continue to find the common ground between his two life-long passions, creating compelling stories and characters that challenge and inspire through issues in science and technology.


Main Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection’s flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license

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