One question that has been raised is whether the Ebola virus has the potential to mutate and become even more deadly.
Recent studies have shown that several mutations that arose during the 2013-2016 outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa were previously found to increase infectivity for human cells. However, a study in two animal models showed no effect of these mutations on disease.
The study found that in an immunocompromised mouse model, the amino acid changes lead to slightly weaker disease progression. In an immunocompetent macaque model, Ebola virus isolates with these changes had slightly reduced pathogenesis. The amino acid changes had no effect on virus shedding from macaques, suggesting minimal impact on transmission.
The authors of the study conclude that they did not find any evidence based on tissue culture and animal modeling for changes in the Ebola virus genome over time that would account for increased viral fitness, pathogenicity, or transmissibility of later phase clinical isolates. They suggest that it is "time to more closely revisit non-pathogen related factors when trying to find explanations for unique and unprecedented characteristics of the West African Ebola virus epidemic."
It is important to note that while mutations in the viral genome can have an impact on the virus's ability to infect and spread, there are many other factors at play in the outbreak of a disease. Factors such as susceptibility of human populations, immune status, vector availability, poor healthcare systems, and population mobility all play a role in the outbreak and spread of a disease.
In conclusion, while the Ebola virus can potentially mutate and change, it is important to consider all the factors that contribute to the outbreak and spread of a disease. It is also important to continue researching and monitoring the virus to better understand its potential to mutate and evolve.