Reston ebolavirus

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

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Ebola Reston is a strain of the Ebola virus. In 1989 crab-eating macaques imported from the Philippines ended up in the Hazleton Research Products facility at 1946 Isaac Newton Sq W, Reston, Virginia where the outbreak occurred.

This specific strain of the Ebola virus caused a rather large panic, but after containment, it was discovered that although closely resembling Ebola Zaire, it proved fatal to only non-human primates. However, four of the Reston primate handlers tested positive for antibodies to the virus, suggesting that they had been infected but were asymptomatic.

The physical building in which the outbreak occurred was demolished on 5/30/1995 and a new building constructed in its place. This facility, which is part of an office park, became a Kindercare and is a Mulberry Child Care and preschool center as of 2007.

Ebola Reston is indistinguishable under an electron microscope from other Human-type Ebola, yet deadly to the monkeys that were in the Reston research facility. It has been hypothesized that the reason that this strain of Ebola is deadly to non-human primates but harmless to humans lies in a minute genetic mutation of the virus. This strain is spread via airborne means, a supporting fact of gentic mutation as the original Ebola strain was not capable of infecting organisms through airborne contact. The surviving monkeys were euthanized as a precautionary measure.

The outbreak was the subject of Richard Preston's best selling 1994 book, The Hot Zone.

Possible Mutation

A crossing of the Ebola Reston strain, which can infect humans but doesn't harm them and therefore is not dangerous for humans, and one of the other Ebola strains (like Ebola Zaire), for example in a subject infected with both strains, could potentially result in a new, for humans deadly, over-the-air infectious Ebola strain mutation. At first it was believed that Ebola Reston is such an Ebola strain and caused panic until it was discovered that it is only dangerous for non-human primates. A new mutation resulting in an Ebola strain which combines the deadliness of Ebola Zaire (or another Ebola strain) and the airborne infectious possibility of Ebola Reston would probably again cause such a panic. The real danger of such a mutation or new Ebola strain would rely on the effectiveness of that strain in airborne infections, the deadliness within humans and the length of incubation period (the incubation period of all curently known lethal Ebola variants being brief enough as to make outbreaks self-limiting by exhausting the availability of potential hosts before the outbreak can spread further).

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