Ebola: Genetic Data Helps Predict Epidemic’s Spread

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Tanja Stadler, ETH Zürich MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Tanja Stadler, ETH Zürich
Department of Biosystems Science & Engineering (D-BSSE)
Basel, Switzerland

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Response: We quantified the speed of spread of the ebola epidemic using the genetic information of ebola.

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Response: Genetic data confirms previous epidemiological parameters, such as the number of infections until the end of June in Sierra Leone. Thus we claim that our additional estimates are also reliable. In particular, for Sierra Leone, the reproductive number – i.e. the number of people a single infected individual infects on average – is estimated to be about 2. It was constant during the first 2 month of the epidemic, ie until June, meaning public health interventions were ineffective during that time period.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Having recent genetic data of ebola will allow us to evaluate recent public heath interventions, such as assessing if the 3-day shut down in Sierra Leone did reduce the number of new transmissions. Such an evaluation will allow us to identify the best strategies for the future. We hope that sampling blood from infected people will be done again to perform these analyses, despite the catastrophic situation in the affected countries.


Stadler T, Kühnert D, Rasmussen DA, du Plessis L. Insights into the Early Epidemic Spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone Provided by Viral Sequence Data. PLOS Currents Outbreaks. 2014 Oct 6. Edition 1.