Scientists to share real-time genetic data on deadly MERS, Ebola

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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

, – Genetic sequence data two the deadliest yet most poorly understood viruses are be made available researchers worldwide in real time as scientists seek speed up understanding Ebola and MERS infections.

The project, led by British scientists with West African and Saudi Arabian collaboration, hopes encourage laboratories around the world use the live data — updated as new emerge — find new ways to diagnose and treat the killer diseases, and ideally, ultimately, prevent them.

“The collective expertise the world’s infectious disease is more powerful than any single lab, and the best way of tapping into this…is make data freely available as soon as possible,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust health charity which is funding the work.

The gene sequences, already available for MERS and soon to come in the case of Ebola, will be posted the website for anyone to see, access and use.

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral disease which first emerged in humans in 2012 and has been spreading in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries since then. is caused by a coronavirus and has already killed more than 430 people.

An unprecedented epidemic of Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 10,000 people in the past year and infected more than 25,000 mainly in , Leone and .

Despite the many deaths caused by Ebola and MERS, researchers still know relatively little about the viruses — including what animals might be acting as “viral reservoirs” — and scientists are battling to develop safe and effective cures or vaccines against them.