Viral Recombination on the Verge of Rupturing Gates of Hell

In 2009, a pig handler in the Philippines was discovered to be afflicted with a mysterious virus, and testing would eventually conclude that he was infected with Ebola Reston virus -- the airborne strain of the Ebola family. The NY Times reported: "The development is worrying, because pigs are mixing vessels for other human and animal viruses, like flu, and because it shows that pigs may also be able to transmit the lethal strains of Ebola."

At the time, we were reassured that pigs transmitting Ebola Reston wasn't a serious concern because: "Humans do not carry other members of the filovirus family that could mix with it, the way that influenza strains from birds, pigs and humans can swap parts of genes." Dr. Thomas G. Ksiazek, a pathogens specialist at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston, reassured the NY Times that: "It’s probably a rare event that pigs get infected. It hasn’t led to a past catastrophe. We’d know about a catastrophe."
This year, however, has been the year of the filovirus catastrophe. While the world's attention is currently focused on the outbreak of Zaire Ebola in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone -- and with the national security implications that it poses for developed countries -- little attention has been paid to outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda.

The current outbreak in the DRC is a different strain than the one ravaging West Africa. The outbreak in Uganda is of the Marburg virus, in what is perhaps the most troubling development. One month before the outbreak of Marburg was confirmed in Uganda, Abreu Report highlighted the danger that Marburg virus represents: "Some scientists fear that many cases of Marburg are currently being misdiagnosed as Ebola, leading some to fear that arthropods may be partly responsible for the current filovirus outbreak. One single mutation in the filoviruses -- that would make arthropods natural reservoirs for filoviruses -- would lead to the decimation of the global human population; as many as 400 million people could die in the first year alone."

While one can only hope that some extreme mutation doesn't allow arthropods to become natural reservoirs for one of the current filoviruses ravaging Africa, it is already pretty apparent that some domesticated animals are transmitting to humans. Just yesterday, the Spanish government caused outrage when it "obtained a court order to euthanize the dog belonging to a nurse who contracted the Ebola virus in Madrid, saying that available scientific knowledge suggests dogs can transmit the virus to humans."

One can only be content with the knowledge that the nurse in Spain did not
come into contact with pigs and other livestock, because it would have led to mass euthanasia of those animals, something which the West African governments afflicted by this current pandemic cannot do, less they exacerbate a famine in their countries. It is already apparent that Ebola is to become endemic in West Africa, and that many animals are carrying the virus.

It is only a question of time until Marburg, Ebola Reston, Zaire Ebola, and one of the other three strains of Ebola come together in one single animal. Though the NY Times reassured us in 2009 that a catastrophe could be averted because humans are not harbors of many different filoviruses, this could quickly change. With each new farmer that becomes infected with Ebola or Marburg, do we come closer to opening the doors to the viral stable of hell. At this point, nature is playing genetic Russian roulette, with each spin of the cylinder potentially firing a bullet with enough power to cause a mass-extinction level event that could end life as we know it.