Ebola spread to Sierra Leone via 14 women who attended a funeral in Guinea and carried the virus back to Sierra Leone, researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, together with colleagues from West Africa, revealed in a study published August 28 in Science. Their analysis of Ebola samples revealed the hundreds of mutations the virus has accumulated that distinguish it from past outbreaks.
Dr. Pardis Sabeti, associate professor in the department of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard School of Public Health and senior associate member of the Broad Institute, supervised the study. The team worked in round-the-clock shifts on the urgent research, even while learning that their collaborators were being affected by the disease. Five of the study’s African authors died from Ebola before the research could be published.