IEEE Computer and Engineering im Medicine and Biology Societies and GBC/ACM

7:00 PM, Thursday, 6 November 2014

MIT Room E51-325

Tracing the origin and transmission of the 2014 Ebola outbreak by virus deep sequencing from 78 patients

Rachel Sealfon

The current Ebola outbreak is unprecedented in its size, rate of growth, and risk to West Africa and the world. The number of infections is following an exponential growth curve, with the CDC now projecting approximately 1.4 million cases by mid-January. Within the three countries which currently have active transmission (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea), there are 20 million people at risk of a disease with a 70% mortality rate. In order to help understand the origin, transmission and evolution of Ebola virus, by late August, the Sabeti lab and collaborators had sequenced, publicly released, and published analysis on Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients in Sierra Leone. These comprise more than 70% of the patients in Sierra Leone diagnosed over the first three weeks of the outbreak there. In this work, we elucidate the relationship of the 2014 outbreak strain to previous outbreaks, identify likely transmission links, and demonstrate that multiple changes became fixed in the virus' genome early in the course of the outbreak. The work has implications for diagnostics, surveillance, and therapeutics.


Rachel Sealfon is a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. She is from Brooklyn, New York and attended Hunter College High School. She graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University and received her master's degree in computer science from MIT. She received the 2008 Computing Research Association Outstanding Female Undergraduate Award and NSF and NDSEG fellowships. Co-advised by Pardis Sabeti and Manolis Kellis, she develops and applies methods to understand microbial genomics and evolution and is particularly interested in under-studied infectious diseases. She has studied pathogens including P. falciparum, Vibrio cholerae, Lassa virus, and Ebola virus. Outside lab, she especially enjoys cooking, reading, and hiking.

This joint meeting of the Boston Chapter of the IEEE Computer and Engineering in Medicine and Biology Societies and GBC/ACM will be held in MIT Room E51-325.  E51 is the Tang Center on the corner of Wadsworth and Amherst Sts and Memorial Dr.; it's mostly used by the Sloan School. You can see it on this map of the MIT campus. Room 325 is on the 3rd floor.

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Updated: Oct 6, 2014.