In Science this week, a team led by Harvard University researchers reported the sequencing of 99 Ebola virus genomes from infected patients in the current outbreak in West Africa. By comparing the data with Ebola sequence data from past outbreaks, the scientists determined that this year's outbreak likely spread from a previous one in Middle Africa during the last 10 years. Unlike previous outbreaks, this year's virus was also found to originate from a single human-reservoir exchange, then spreading human to human.
The results provide a starting point for understanding how unique viral mutations may be contributing to the severity of this year's outbreak, and demonstrate the value of rapid sequencing of a viral genome during an epidemic for disease surveillance and the identification of therapeutic targets.
Meanwhile, in Science Translational Medicine, the National Institutes of Health's Hannah Valentine and colleagues discuss the barriers facing transdisciplinary research in academia and how corporate models of cooperation can facilitate teamwork among academic scientists.