Scientists at major research institutions are having trouble getting the samples of Ebola they need to develop treatment for the disease, Reuters reported.
"All the companies working on vaccines, diagnostics and treatments are complaining about lack of access to viral samples," Laurie Garrett, the senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, told Reuters.
The holdup is largely due to the extreme caution being used to safely transport the samples, she said.
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But scientists need fresh samples, because the virus mutates.
"No one really knows right now what has the virus mutated to or if it has mutated," said microbiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Charles Chiu of the University of California, San Francisco, who is working on a genetic test that could detect the virus before symptoms. Without that research, "we're not going to be able to determine in advance whether or not it has changed to a form where it might evade diagnostic assays or might render current vaccines or drugs ineffective."
Reuters contacted 10 scientists at eight major research institutions who said they were unable to get Ebola samples in recent months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the transportation issue has been challenging, but that it has reached an agreement to get samples from the three affected countries in West Africa. Still, it's unclear if the quantity will meet the demand.
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The problem has grown since the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died.
"You can divide the outbreak into pre-Dallas and post-Dallas," Dr. John Schieffelin of Tulane, who has treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, told Reuters. "Everybody has safety as a very, very high priority, which is great. But sometimes the fear and hysteria trumps science."