Team Of Scientists Tries To Crack Ebola's Deadly Code

Saturday, October 18th 2014, 3:32 pm
By: News 9

As the Ebola outbreak increases, scientists are searching for better treatments to combat the virus.

Among the research effort is a team of scientists from California who are hoping antibodies from the blood samples of Ebola survivors can provide clues to a cure, CBS News' Brandon Scott reports.

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A few San Diego scientists are part of a global team of researchers racing to cure an Ebola outbreak unlike anything they've ever seen.

"We've never seen it in West Africa before. We've never seen an 8,000 person Ebola virus outbreak before," said Erica Ollmann Saphire with the Scripps Research Institute Global Virus Network.

Saphire has studied Ebola for more than a decade. She said this strain is different, with at least 55 genetic mutations, making it even harder to find a cure.

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"We need to analyze what those mutations are now," she told CBS News. "That is work that we now need to do in weeks to months that would have previously taken us years."

Right now there aren't any federally approved drugs on the market to treat Ebola, but scientists are working on several experimental medications that the government could clear for use in patients in dire need.

This San Diego team's mission is to map the virus and find its vulnerabilities, a process that can take months and cost millions. Most of their research is federally funded.

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"The free market would never support an Ebola therapeutic because most of the people that get it are too poor to buy the treatment themselves," Saphire said.

So with this outbreak stretching its budget, the lab has launched a crowd-funding site to buy more equipment. So far, they've raised $56,000 and are halfway to their $100,000 goal - money that they hope can fast-track the search for a cure.