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Ebola Recombinant Linked to Mystery Illness in Sichuan China?
July 30, 2005
D: "It's alright. We ran tests on those samples and isolated the SZ77++A3231 virus."
I: "What is this SZ77++A3231 virus?"
D: "This is a strain of the Ebola virus."
I: "Would you like to comment about it?"
D: "It's rather impossible to totally explain it."
I: "I can understand so, but why is the term "less-infectious" always affixed to our version of the Ebola virus?"
D: "There are 2 reasons for doing so. First, to reduce panic among the people should it ever leak. And second, the Ebola virus has evolved in China. Re-combination has been detected. Most prominently at the portion which determines its effect on humans (very technical description, I can't describe it. sorry.). Also, abrupt breaks in the sequencing were detected, leading to changes in the incubation period. (Or possibly "changes in the incubation period were detected")
I: "How were these viruses classified then? / Could you elaborate more about the various strains?"
D: "Previously, strains of Ebola in China always had the EBO prefix. Subsequently following information leaks, the classification method was changed. We stopped using the EBO prefix. Instead, coupled with the discovery that the virus had become more virulent and lethal, we re-named the strains according to the placed where they were first discovered. For example, the strain in June became the SZ77++A3231. Sometimes, we don't even use their place of discovery, instead directly naming it the ++A3231."
I: "In that way, the Ebola virus wouldn't even be brought into the picture."
D: "Precisely, viruses such as the Ebola are national secrets."
The above comments by a physician involved in testng samples from patients in the mysterious swine outbreak in Sichuan indicate that one of the agents isolated is a recombinant Ebola virus originally isolated from Shenzen. Prior reports had listed the names and characteristics of various Ebola isolates and EB-SZ-277 was capable of infecting birds. SZ277++A3231 is a recombinant version of SZ-277 isolated from a patient. The discussion indicates China has an active Ebola project and the virus is rapidly evolving via recombination. It was not clear from earlier reports if the agent was isolated and sequenced, but this interview leaves little doubt that both isolation and sequencing of Ebola is quite active. It is unclear if the recombination is related to the region of identity between Ebola and H5N1. Ebola is considered a state secret, so there are no reports of the virus or availability of virus or sequences.
The interview also indicates that the streptococcus suis is not the cause of the illness. It is present in pigs and is merely activated by infectious agents, which include Ebola, plague, and an un-named virus which is considered "dangerous". The emphasis is on the bacteria because it can produce similar symptoms. The symptoms of the patients match pandemic flu of 1918, and H5N1 can produce such symptoms.
The interview, if accurate, would support the role of agents other than the bacteria, in the spread or progression of the illness. Streptococcus Suis does not produce the high case fatality rate, and can be treated with antibiotics, as can plague. The high case fatality rate also supports the involvement of a virus. The proximity to Qinghai Lake keeps H5N1bird flu and migratory birds on the short list of explanations for the rapid spread of the fatal disease that is resistant to antibiotic treatment.