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Published On June 10, 2015


An Outbreak Told in Genomes

Rapid genetic sequencing maps an Ebola outbreak in fine detail.

The fight against the Ebola virus in 2014 brought many experimental technologies to bear. One of the most revolutionary was rapid genomic sequencing, which was used to analyze the virus as it spread in Sierra Leone.

Scientists from Harvard’s Sabeti Lab were able to gather and sequence samples early in the outbreak. This trail of genetic bread crumbs showed researchers how the disease had spread and how it was evolving, insights that can help researchers develop vaccines and plan better treatments and public health strategies. 

The challenge, especially in remote regions, is logistical. But the Sabeti Lab had already built a robust infrastructure in Sierra Leone through its work with the Lassa virus, another deadly pathogen. When Ebola struck, they were ready to act.