Understanding the virus

To be able to identify better treatment strategies and design effective vaccines, it is crucial to know what is actually happening when a patient is infected by the Ebola virus

Reportage - projet LabEx Milieu Interieur

The goal of this project is to sequence the genetics of the virus in order to understand the human immune reaction to Ebola.

More than 600 samples from Guinean patients have been transferred to Institut Pasteur in Senegal. These samples can provide answers to how the virus evolves and transmits, how the human immune system responds to the virus and why people have different reactions to Ebola.

Answering these questions will help us identify the most effective vaccine and treatment strategies, and thus stop the virus from spreading. 

In this project, scientists from Institut Pasteur will travel to Guinea to extract the necessary genetic information from patient samples in a safe manner. When the DNA is extracted it is no longer infectious or dangerous. With the extracted genetic information, our scientists will study how the virus has evolved, how it is spreading and how the human immune system responds to the virus.

For the very first time in history, we will have evidence on how the human immune system responds to the virus. This information will help Ebola research and treatment development in several ways:

  1. We will learn how the virus evolves and transmits. This knowledge is crucial to stop the virus from spreading.
  2. By sequencing the virus from several patients we will learn who transmitted the virus to whom. This will allow better planning to stop the virus from spreading in the future.
  3. By finding the human immune response to the Ebola virus, we can design better vaccines and identify better treatment strategies.
  4. We will find out why people have different reactions to Ebola and why some people die, while others only get mild symptoms and survive. This knowledge will help us predict the outcome of an infection and design a better treatment.

This project will provide information on what happens in patients, both on the human and viral level. This unique information will be of value to Ebola patients, the scientific community, health authorities and policy makers, both on a global and local level.


Anavaj Sakuntabhai
Dr. Anavaj Sakuntabhai,
Head of Functional Genetics of Infectious Diseases Unit