- In an effort to combat two of the deadliest viruses in the world, British scientists are launching an initiative in which labs worldwide will sequence viral genes as new cases of Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are diagnosed.
- The British scientists will be collaborating with scientists at labs in Saudi Arabia and West Africa—the hot spots for MERS and Ebola, respectively.
- This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust Global Charity..
In terms of infectious diseases, collaborative efforts are important because of the way these diseases spread and are transmitted. Both MERS, a coronavirus which has killed more than 430 people, and Ebola, which has killed at least 10,000 people, are ideal targets for this type of effort.
Genetic surveillance allows scientists to track a virus as it changes. With the understanding that certain changes have diagnostic and transmission-related implications, scientists can then suggest strategies to better diagnose and contain an infectious virus.
One of the most important aspects of this project is the fact that the data will be freely shared among scientists and other stakeholders. Widespread availability of viral genome sequences could be the key to stopping an epidemic outbreak before it starts.