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Discovery of Ebola Virus?

anonymous anonymous.scripps.edu
Tue Oct 24 19:15:16 EST 1995

Just a quick warning to people:

Laurie Garrett's book "The Coming Plague" is an entertaining piece of
popular writing. However, while I cannot vouch for the historical accuracy
of the book, I have noticed some rather extreme errors in the scientific
aspects of the book.  In particular, her explanation of the genetics of
influenza virus is not merely lacking in detail, it is in some places
blatantly inaccurate. So, take what she says with a grain of salt, and if
possible, it may be more useful to do a medline search to track down the
origins of the Ebola epidemics.

In reference to another article in this string, in which the possibility
of a connection between HIV and Ebola is discussed, this seems rather
improbable.  Ebola is a member of the filoviridae, which contain a ssRNA
(-) genome.  HIV, on the other hand, is a member of the retroviridae
family, containing an inverted dimer of ssRNA (+) which requires reverse
transcriptase to form a DNA intermediate during the replication process. 
I think it is more likely that similarities between HIV and Ebola exist in
terms of their classifications as "emerging viruses" an overused, but at
times useful, catch-phrase for viruses which may be creating havoc in
human hosts whereas they probably coexist in a more benign form in a
natural host animal. Encroachment of humans into areas of the world which
were formerly less accessible, along with increase population density and
mobility, may be significant factors in the apparently recent release of
these viruses.

John C. Tilton
Scripps Research Institute

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