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Ebola Reston vs. Ebola Zaire/Sudan

Scott Weitzenhoffer sweitzen at uiuc.edu
Sat Apr 29 02:41:29 EST 1995


If I understand correctly, there have been several human cases of Ebola Reston,
which apparently produces a symptomless, nonlethal, infection in humans but is
lethal in monkeys.  Furthermore, it seems that Ebola Reston is _far_ more
contagious by air than the other filoviruses, Marburg, and Ebola Zaire/Sudan.
This would be quite a nightmare if it had a lethality in humans comparable to the 
other filoviruses.

My questions are these:  

(1)  Have any experiments been done to discover if humans infected with Ebola
     Reston exhibit any heightened resistance to other filoviruses?  (I am
     considering here if, as cowpox was effective in vaccinating against smallpox,
     Ebola Reston could be developed into a vaccination againt the lethal
     filoviruses.)

(2)  Have any experiments been done on spontaneous mutation of Ebola?  (ie- how
     likely is it that Ebola Zaire would spontaneously mutate into an agent as
     readily airborne as Ebola Reston, while preserving its lethality?)  I am
     aware that such research may very well be illegal, as it could be construed
     as development of a biological weapon, but nevertheless, I believe the answer
     is important.

(3)  How easy would it be to mutate _deliberately_ the Ebola Zaire virus into a
     highly contagious, airborne strain?  (If it can be done, rest assured
     somebody eventually will try.)

(4)  If an outbreak of a highly contagious, airborne, lethal Ebola strain
     occurred, have any simulations been done to predict the global impact? 
     Would a global epidemic be likely, or would we be reasonably able to contain
     it?

I imagine these questions are not original; I am curious if any information about
them is available.



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