Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Scientists Died of Ebola While Working on a Single Study on the Virus

A study published in Science yesterday is notable not just because it detailed the monumental achievement of sequencing 99 different strains of the Ebola virus, but because of the human toll it took on the team collecting the virus' samples: Five scientists died of Ebola while researching the paper.
At the end of the paper, the lead authors, which hail from a Harvard/MIT collaborative project called the Broad Institute, had an "in memoriam" section, something you don't often see in scientific papers.

"Tragically, five co-authors, who contributed greatly to public health and research efforts in Sierra Leone, contracted EVD in the course of their work and lost their battle with the disease before this manuscript could be published," the researchers wrote. "We wish to honor their memory."

According to a follow-up story by Science's Gretchen Vogel, the deceased researchers are Mbalu Fonnie, Alex Moigboi, Alice Kovoma, Mohamed Fullah, and Sheik Humarr Khan. A sixth researcher, Sidiki Saffa, died of a stroke before the paper was published. The researchers were nurses, doctors, lab technicians, and health clinic supervisors.

I've reached out to several of the surviving scientists to learn more about the co-authors, but no one has gotten back to me yet.

Sheik Humarr Khan. Image: Pardis Sabetti

By all accounts, the results of the research are going to be useful in fighting Ebola: The researchers are hopeful that now, with not just one but 99 different full genome sequences of the virus, they'll be able to develop techniques to rapidly diagnose people who have contracted the virus.

For the rest of the story:

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