Will Ebola Mutate to Become Airborne?
Will Ebola mutate? Is it airborne? Will Ebola become like the flu?
The Ebola virus, also known as Ebolavirus, is a highly contagious virus that is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, semen, and breast milk. However, there is a growing concern that Ebola may mutate to become airborne. This theory was first proposed by Michael Osterholm in a Times OpEd, but it was widely criticized by many virologists. In this blog post, we will explore the evidence for and against the idea that Ebola could become airborne.
Ebola is a serious public health concern and understanding its transmission patterns is crucial in order to effectively control and prevent its spread. The idea that Ebolavirus might become transmitted by the respiratory route was suggested last year by Michael Osterholm in a Times OpEd. However, this idea was widely criticized by many virologists, including the author of this blog post. The recent article, which Osterholm co-authored with 20 other authors, including Ebola virologists, adds no new evidence to support the idea that Ebola might become transmitted by the respiratory route.
- Evidence for respiratory transmission of Ebolavirus
- Lack of critical thinking in the recent article
- Possible blocks to respiratory transmission of Ebolavirus
Evidence for respiratory transmission of Ebolavirus
In the last section of the review article, the authors admit that they have no evidence for respiratory transmission of Ebolavirus. They state that "it is very likely that at least some degree of Ebola virus transmission currently occurs via infectious aerosols generated from the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, or medical procedures, although this has been difficult to definitively demonstrate or rule out, since those exposed to infectious aerosols also are most likely to be in close proximity to and in direct contact with an infected case."
Lack of critical thinking in the recent article
The author of this blog post finds the lack of critical thinking in the recent article to be concerning. The authors present a list of reasons why they think Ebolavirus could go airborne, such as isolation of Ebolaviruses from saliva, presence of viral particles in pulmonary alveoli on human autopsies, and cough, which can generate aerosols, can be a symptom of Ebolavirus disease. However, the author concludes that these properties do not necessarily mean that the virus is close to being transmitted by aerosols.
Possible blocks to respiratory transmission of Ebolavirus
The author concludes that there is clearly a substantial block to respiratory transmission that the virus cannot overcome. Perhaps the virus is not stable enough in respiratory aerosols, or there are not enough infectious viruses in aerosols to transmit infection from human to human. Overcoming these blocks might simply not be biologically possible for Ebolavirus.
It is always difficult to predict what viruses will or will not do. Instead, virologists observe what viruses have done in the past, and use that information to guide their thinking. If we ask the simple question, has any human virus ever changed its mode of transmission?, the answer is no. We have been studying viruses for over 100 years, and we’ve never seen a virus change its mode of transmission. Based on the current evidence, it is unlikely that Ebola will mutate to become airborne. However, it is important to continue monitoring the virus and conducting research to better understand its transmission patterns.