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Haley Bridger
Broad Institute Communications
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Sequencing the Ebola Genomes
Speedy analysis reveals mutations, insights into outbreak, along with clues to origin

Responding rapidly to the deadly outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa, a team of researchers from the Broad Institute and Harvard University, working with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and researchers elsewhere, has sequenced and analyzed many Ebola virus genomes. 

“We’ve uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks,” said Stephen Gire, a research scientist in the Sabeti lab at the Broad Institute and Harvard. “Although we don’t know whether these differences are related to the severity of the current outbreak, by sharing these data with the research community, we hope to speed up our understanding of this epidemic and support global efforts to contain it.”

The research team increased the amount of genomic data available on the Ebola virus fourfold, and used the “deep sequencing” technique, in which sequencing is repeated often enough to generate high confidence in the results, on all available samples. The researchers sequenced at a depth of 2,000 times on average for each Ebola genome to get an extremely close-up view. This allowed them to detect multiple mutations that alter protein sequences — potential targets for future diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies.

Experts:
Pardis Sabeti, Associate Professor at the Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University, Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease at Harvard School of Public Health, and Senior Associate Member, Broad Institute 

Stephen Gire, research scientist, Sabeti Lab