There is a chilling international report out of this week on the origins of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Researchers from the United States and Africa were able to trace the origins of the outbreak to a funeral in Guinea. The report expanded the data on Ebola by 400 percent. However, the standard listing of authors on the study have a chilling notation, a “‡” designation for “Deceased.” Five team members died in the effort to trace this Ebola stain and the release of the report honors their extraordinary sacrifice.
The team sequenced 99 Ebola virus genomes collected in the 2014 outbreak by locating and diagnosing 78 patients in Sierra Leone during the first 24 days of the outbreak. They found that the 2014 Ebola virus genomes contain over 300 mutations that distinguish them from previous outbreaks. The strains indicate that they separated from the original Middle African version in the last 10 years. The first outbreaks were recorded in in Nzara in Sudan, and in Yambuku in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) along the river Ebola (hence its name). This strain was traced to 12 people who attended the same funeral in Guinea.
The list of authors and team members include the five who died to get the world this information:
Stephen K. Gire*, Augustine Goba,*,†, Kristian G. Andersen*,†, Rachel S. G. Sealfon*, Daniel J. Park*, Lansana Kanneh, Simbirie Jalloh, Mambu Momoh, Mohamed Fullah,‡, Gytis Dudas, Shirlee Wohl, Lina M. Moses, Nathan L. Yozwiak, Sarah Winnicki, Christian B. Matranga, Christine M. Malboeuf, James Qu, Adrianne D. Gladden, Stephen F. Schaffner, Xiao Yang, Pan-Pan Jiang, Mahan Nekoui, Andres Colubri, Moinya Ruth Coomber, Mbalu Fonnie,‡, Alex Moigboi,‡, Michael Gbakie, Fatima K. Kamara, Veronica Tucker, Edwin Konuwa, Sidiki Saffa, Josephine Sellu, Abdul Azziz Jalloh, Alice Kovoma,‡, James Koninga, Ibrahim Mustapha, Kandeh Kargbo, Momoh Foday, Mohamed Yillah, Franklyn Kanneh, Willie Robert, James L. B. Massally, Sinéad B. Chapman, James Bochicchio, Cheryl Murphy, Chad Nusbaum, Sarah Young, Bruce W. Birren, Donald S. Grant, John S. Scheiffelin, Eric S. Lander, Christian Happi, Sahr M. Gevao, Andreas Gnirke, Andrew Rambaut, Robert F. Garry, S. Humarr Khan,‡, Pardis C. Sabeti
The courage and commitment of these researchers is inspiring in the face of such a lethal threat. They (like so many health workers who have died) represent the best of us. While we often discuss the grotesque actions of terrorists like Islamic State, we can forget that there remain people like these heroes who put themselves at mortal risk to help humanity.
The publication in Science states:
In memoriam: Tragically, five co-authors, who contributed greatly to public health and research efforts in Sierra Leone, contracted EVD in the course of their work and lost their battle with the disease before this manuscript could be published. We wish to honor their memory.