New Ebola virus strain created without viral particles, may make it harder to fight

South African scientists have created a strain of Ebola virus without any of the deadly viruses’ characteristic characteristics — which in turn could make it more difficult to work out how the strain spread…

New Ebola virus strain created without viral particles, may make it harder to fight

South African scientists have created a strain of Ebola virus without any of the deadly viruses’ characteristic characteristics — which in turn could make it more difficult to work out how the strain spread to Africa and then spread internationally.

The researchers’ experiment was published in the journal Science on Monday. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is now planning to investigate whether the Ebola virus makes its way in animals via the lungs, according to a statement emailed to NBC News.

“This experiment took place well before any cases of Ebola were confirmed in humans in Africa,” reads the study. “The virus had already been moving through much of the rest of the world, and the assumption of a transmissibility pathway within the lungs had been rumored, but completely excluded in the laboratory.

“For this reason, a human clinical trial was avoided to allow the scientists to safely investigate the pathogenesis in animals.”

NIH officials say the agency will be consulting with South African scientists and will take care to not change any of the experimental protocols, according to the statement.

“There is no evidence to suggest that past or current novel Ebola viruses have originated from cDNA,” reads the paper. “Therefore, the authors’ conclusion was that cDNA was unlikely to be the ancestor of new Ebola viruses and the starting point for transmission in the animals tested in this investigation. This has never been reported prior to this study, and our results propose a completely new route of Ebola virus transmission.”

Based on the results, the researchers concluded that Ebola can “spread efficiently” via the lungs. The results mean that the way the virus spreads outside of primates has changed. The scientists said their findings could help in the search for a vaccine.

The authors said that the current Ebola outbreak was triggered by a mutant strain of the virus. New Ebola virus strains usually circulate in macaque monkeys. But in this case, the animals became infected before there was any sort of human outbreak, which meant researchers wanted to produce a strain that had disappeared from the monkey population. To do so, the researchers grew the virus in monkey immune cells. They then transferred it from the cell to monkeys in order to infect them.

The experimental Ebola virus showed up in South Africa in late 2014 and spread to other countries in Africa. The epidemic that began in 2014 eventually killed more than 11,300 people, according to the World Health Organization.

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