Ebola affects the Global Health Colloquium

Ebola! The Fall 2012 Global Health Colloquium kicked off student presentations on September 19, 2012 with a heavy dose of Ebola and Marburg Hemorrhagic Fevers.

Galvin Life Sciences Center served as the location where students and faculty were first exposed to Ebola! Actually, research projects stemming from the lab of Associate Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine South Bend and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Notre Dame, Robert Stahelin, were presented. Stahelin’s PhD candidate and Eck Institute for Global Health Fellow, Emmanuel Adu-Gyamfi, along with three Master of Science in Global Health students, Brittany Ockenfels, Michael Thigpen, and Mark Fraser, shared their research findings.

The four students gave an infectious presentation ranging from the epidemiology of the deadly disease-causing virus to the status of vaccine development and novel approaches in drug discovery. Ebola is technically categorized as a rare viral disease endemic to central Africa thus it not as prevalent as AIDS, Malaria, and tuberculosis and often overlooked in the international discussions of disease control. However, Ebola is highly contagious and highly deadly

There are five distinct species of Ebola:  Bundibugyo, Ivory Coast, Reston, Sudan, and Zaire. Bundibugyo, Sudan, and Zaire species have been most closely associated with outbreaks on the continent of Africa.  Zaire is the most common and, unfortunately, the most deadly with mortality rates as high as 90% within days of contraction. The international vaccine community targets the Zaire and Sudan strains, while the Stahelin lab narrows its research specifically to Zaire.

While there are many ways to approach this challenge, the Stahelin lab is considering the biochemistry of the virus by looking at the mutants and the protein assembly as well as the lipids. Not to worry, the lab does not use the exact highly contagious virus! They use VLPs (virus like proteins) that mimic assembly and work as a clone of the VP40 protein. While the presentation was given by an infectious group of students, campus will not experience an “Outbreak” like in the movies.

Thank you for this wonderful start to the semester!

The Global Health Colloquium meets every Wednesday during the fall and spring semester on designated class days presenting a wide variety of global health topics in lecture format. The lectures are part of a class taught by EIGH Operations Director Katherine Taylor, PhD.  More information can be found at: http://globalhealth.nd.edu/events/