Seen here (in blue) wriggling snake-like out of a host cell is the Ebolavirus, a stone-cold killer. Mortality rates during outbreaks often touch 90 percent, and with no existing treatments, victims’ lives lie in the hands of fate. Ebola is so dangerous in fact that the safety measures needed to study it leave laboratories looking more like military bunkers than scientific establishments. If there was ever a disease capable of bringing about a Hollywood-esque Armageddon, this is surely it. Security precautions may contain Ebola for research purposes but southern Africa is rocked by almost-yearly outbreaks, sparked by animal carriers. The most recent continues to march across Guinea into neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Drugs to combat these epidemics are unfortunately still a long way off. Recent research however, suggests that success will come from encouraging the body to produce a high quality, rather than just high volume, immune response.
Written by Jan Piotrowski