University of Nebraska Medical Center

2020 Ebola virus disease outbreak in Équateur Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo: a retrospective genomic characterization

The Lancet Microbe

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has had 15 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreaks, from 1976 to 2023. On June 1, 2020, the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an outbreak of EVD in the western Équateur Province (11th outbreak), proximal to the 2018 Tumba and Bikoro outbreak and concurrent with an outbreak in the eastern Nord Kivu Province. In this Article, we assessed whether the 11th outbreak was genetically related to previous or concurrent EVD outbreaks and connected available epidemiological and genetic data to identify sources of possible zoonotic spillover, uncover additional unreported cases of nosocomial transmission, and provide a deeper investigation into the 11th outbreak.


We analysed epidemiological factors from the 11th EVD outbreak to identify patient characteristics, epidemiological links, and transmission modes to explore virus spread through space, time, and age groups in the Équateur Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Trained field investigators and health professionals recorded data on suspected, probable, and confirmed cases, including demographic characteristics, possible exposures, symptom onset and signs and symptoms, and potentially exposed contacts. We used blood samples from individuals who were live suspected cases and oral swabs from individuals who were deceased to diagnose EVD. We applied whole-genome sequencing of 87 available Ebola virus genomes (from 130 individuals with EVD between May 19 and Sept 16, 2020), phylogenetic divergence versus time, and Bayesian reconstruction of phylogenetic trees to calculate viral substitution rates and study viral evolution. We linked the available epidemiological and genetic datasets to conduct a genomic and epidemiological study of the 11th EVD outbreak.

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