Guinean Scientist, Dr Alpha Kabinet Keita and colleagues have produced the complete genome of the Ebola virus, marking a major scientific breakthrough that could sharpen the therapies and diagnostic tools used for treatment and detection of the disease.
This breakthrough finding by Keita and team comprising of researchers from the Centre de Recherche et de Formation en Infectiologie de Guinée (CERFIG), Université de Conakry, and other institutions in Guinea who were joined by others from TransVIHMI, Montpellier University/IRD/INSERM, Montpellier, France and Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany may provide a clearer path towards finding a lasting antidote to the viral infection known for its rapid morbidity and high mortality rate.
Guinea is facing a resurgence of Ebola virus disease seven years after the first outbreak, this time around in a town that is only 200 km from the epicenter of the previous epidemic. This was what prompted Keita and colleagues who wanted to know if the current epidemic was caused by a probably different strain of the highly deadly virus that broke out in West Africa.
The whole genome sequencing, according to a report of their works published in virological.org , was attempted at CERFIG in Conakry, Guinea on viral extracts from samples that were positive for Zaire Ebola virus disease (EBOV NP) and GP on the GeneXpert molecular diagnostic platform, Xpert Ebola Assay.
“For this, we generated Illumina libraries which were enriched in filoviral sequences by hybridization capture before their sequencing on an Illumina iSeq platform. We used the resulting reads to generate consensus sequences,” Keita and colleagues wrote.
They were able to discover four genomic sequences, three of which were strictly identical with a slight variation from the fourth.
Using MAFFT, a multiple sequence alignment program and another tool for maximum likelihood analysis, the team found that the new outbreak is the result of the resurgence of the strain that previously circulated across West Africa between the 2013 and 2016.
“The unexpectedly short branch leading to the 2021 Guinean EBOV genomes suggests a marked substitution rate slowdown, which might be due to latency in a survivor,” Keita and colleagues wrote.