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The current outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa continues to alarm health workers as case numbers rise. The first cases of EVD have been confirmed in a hig-profile doctor in Liberia and two US health workers in Nigeria. The CDC issued a health advisory to remain alert for EVD symptoms and exposure in affected countries. However, EVD poses little risk to the general US population at this time.

Nigerian health authorities have confirmed a diagnosis of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in a patient who died on Friday in a hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, after traveling from Liberia on July 20, 2014. The report marks the first Ebola case in Nigeria linked to the current outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Health authorities also reported this weekend that two U.S. citizens working in a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, have confirmed Ebola virus infection. These recent cases, together with the continued increase in the number of Ebola cases in West Africa, underscore the potential for travel-associated spread of the disease and the risks of EVD to healthcare workers. While the possibility of infected persons entering the U.S. remains low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that healthcare providers in the U.S. should consider EVD in the differential diagnosis of febrile illness, with compatible symptoms, in any person with recent (within 21 days) travel history in the affected countries and consider isolation of those patients meeting these criteria, pending diagnostic testing.

EVD is a highly infective virus with an extremely quick and destructive lifecycle. Presently there is no vaccine or known cure for Ebola. This is likely due to the extreme difficulty to research a virus that is so dangerous and lacks animal models other than primates.  In a recent analysis of T cell cross-reactivity between virus and human sequences we found that fast-acting viruses, such as Ebola and Marburg, had very low levels of T cell cross-reactivity while commensal viruses, such as HPV, had very high levels of cross-reactivity- some commensals even contained possible Tregitope sequences. Ebola acts so quickly it doesn’t need to hide from the immune system. But there may be hope yet. With continued improvements in vaccine design technology and new computational methods for vaccine development better more effective vaccines are on the horizon.

If you would like to learn more about computational vaccinology methods you should check out CV4, the 4th Computational Vaccinology Workshop at the ISV and Vaccine Congress this October. Paper submissions are due this week and poster abstracts are due August 15th but you can sign up at any date before the workshop on October 25th.

Stay safe!