Ebola kills 5 Sierra Leone researchers before their study on outbreak is published

Five West African Ebola researchers died from the virus before they ever saw their work in print.

The Harvard University-led study, published Thursday in Science magazine,found that the virus has mutated over the course of the 2014 outbreak, which has killed more than 1,500 people since its March onset.

The work emphasized that the rapid variations could make vaccine and treatment development difficult — a point further underscored by the Ebola deaths of its authors.

The five deceased researchers were among 50 co-authors who wrote the study,Science reported. While the Harvard team backed the research, it was supported by authors on the ground in Africa.

All five worked at Sierra Leone’s Kenema Government Hospital Lassa fever facility, including the center’s top doctor, Sheik Humarr Khan.

Nurses Mbalu Fonnie, Alex Moigboi and Alice Kovoma were all infected with the virus while they treated another, pregnant nurse with Ebola. Lab tech Mohamed Fullah also died from the disease, likely after he contracted it from a family member.

Ebola has killed about half of its 3,069 known patients. The West African outbreak has victims in five countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal.

But while the virus has African roots, its reach extends beyond the continent.

Some cautious American universities have developed extra health checks for West African students before they set foot on campus this fall.

PHOTO TAKEN WEDNESDAY AUG 27 2014ABBAS DULLEH /APThe West African disease has killed more than 1,500 people since its March onset.

The American College Health Association recommended its members update emergency plans, find out where patients

have traveled and use isolation exam rooms when available. Several colleges have started checking the temperatures of students arriving from affected countries. South Carolina and North Dakota health departments have spelled out for administrators what symptoms to look for and how to react.

The American concern comes after two U.S. humanitarian health workers caught the virus while treating patients in Liberia. Both Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were transported to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment.

Both were released last week.

There is no cure for the virus, but some drug makers are in the early stages of testing treatments.

There is no cure for the virus, but some drug makers are in the early stages of testing treatments.ABBAS DULLEH /APThere is no cure for the virus, but some drug makers are in the early stages of testing treatments.

Experimental drug ZMapp was given to both Brantly and Writebol. Some shipments of the American drug have been sent to Africa to fight the outbreak.

Liberian physician’s assistant Kyndy Kobbah received one of the limited ZMapp doses. She recovered and is expected to be released from the hospital Saturday.

Ahead of her release, she urged the drug’s makers to ramp up production.

“They need to make more ZMapp and send to us,” she said.

The company has said that all its supplies are exhausted and it will take months to make more. ZMapp’s success is still questionable — while the American doctors and Kobbah recovered after receiving a dosage, a Spanish Catholic missionary taken to Madrid for treatment died after he was given the drug.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.