Ebola, under the microscope

The Ebola virus—which has five known strains—attacks the body's immune system, hijacks cells and weakens blood vessels, leading to shock and multi-organ failure.

Understanding the Ebola Virus

Like all viruses, an understanding of the unique structure is critical to the pursuit of successful therapies. The five sub-types of the Ebola virus—Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Tai Forest, and Reston (only found in animals)—are named for the regions in which they were discovered. Zaire is considered the most deadly strain with a mortality rate of 50 to 90 percent.

Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids, such as semen, feces or vomit of infected persons (or animals), including close contact with deceased Ebola virus disease victims, who are highly infectious. Infection can also be spread through objects like needles and syringes or clothing and bedding that have been contaminated with the virus. Unlike some other viruses, such as influenza or SARS, Ebola virus is not spread through the air, or by water or through mosquitoes or other insects.

Illustration: Satyen Tripathi

Illustration of the ebola virus at the microscopic level