An image of Ebola emerges

Haley Bridger, November 15th, 2012
  • Image from “Emerging Disease or Diagnosis?” Stephen K. Gire,
    Matthew Stremlau, Kristian G. Andersen, Stephen F. Schaffner, Zach
    Bjornson, Kathleen Rubins, Lisa Hensley, Joseph B. McCormick, Eric
    S. Lander, Robert F. Garry, Christian Happi, and Pardis C. Sabeti,
    Science 9 November 2012: 338 (6108), 750-752. [DOI:10.1126/
    science.1225893]. Reprinted with permission from AAAS

In the following video, Stephen Gire, a researcher in Pardis Sabeti’s lab at the Broad Institute and Harvard University, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at a perspective piece he and his colleagues published in Science Nov. 9. In the piece, Gire and his co-authors describe the widespread prevalence and ancient origins of highly contagious viruses such as Lassa and Ebola. A rise in the appearance of several types of these hemorrhagic fevers in the last few decades and outbreaks over the last year or so have raised concerns about emerging pathogens – microbes that have recently jumped from animals to humans or have gone from rare to widespread as human behavior has shifted. But Gire and his colleagues suggest a different reason for why we are seeing more of these diseases: we have become better at spotting outbreaks and diagnosing these deadly viruses.

This concept, which the authors term “emerging diagnosis,” suggests that exposure to these diseases might be much more common than we think and that such viruses may be circulating, undetected, in populations. With better detection tools, clinical researchers may be able to identify and diagnose these diseases before outbreaks occur.

In addition to being a research scientist, Gire is also a talented photographer and world traveler. Over the course of his travels, he has shot video footage and taken thousands of photos, many of which you will see in the video below. While working on the perspectives piece for Science, an image popped into Gire’s mind. He imagined looking down from the window of a plane upon the Congo River, near where the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. What if, he imagined, the river itself was curved and twisted into the iconic shape of Ebola? An image of Ebola’s potentially widespread prevalence and ancient origins is just beginning to emerge, just as an image of the virus’s shape would only begin to take form as one’s view from a plane became wider and more encompassing.

You can find out more about this inspiring vision in the video below and read the perspectives piece by clicking here.