Very many Synonyms, Very many Antonyms |

A mere three percent of people with Ebola infected more than 60% of all cases during the 2014-15 West African epidemic, a modelling study suggests.

These “superspreaders” – the very old or very young, who stayed at home rather than attend a treatment centre – fuelled the outbreak’s growth and prolonged its duration.

Targeting such superspreader subsets, US and European researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , could shorten a future epidemic’s run and curtail its spread.

Superspreaders aren’t confined to Ebola cases. Similar individuals have been implicated in the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, MERS, in 2012.

Recommended Ebola survivor's antibodies boost hope of treatment Biology

But no one knew just how important they were in transmitting Ebola throughout the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, fuelling an epidemic which, by late 2015, had claimed 11,300 lives.