Interview with Colonel Nancy Jaax, D.V.M., PhD

Colonel Nancy Jaax and her husband, Colonel Gerald Jaax

What motivated you to work with Ebola?

Ebola had just emerged for the second time the year before I came to USAMRIID as a resident in Veterinary Pathology in 1979. It was truly a "mystery virus" at the time, and we knew virtually nothing about it--at that time we didn't even have the tools to classify it accurately. The opportunity to work with such a unique virus was irresistible to me. I also had contracted Hepatitis C from an emergency blood transfusion, (at the time, there was no test for this disease, and it was called "non-A-nonB hepatitis). Whenever I got immunized for a BSL 3 agent, I would experience liver enzyme elevations, so I volunteered to work in a BSL4 lab, where those vaccinations were not a requirement.

Had you known what you know now about Ebola, would you still have been involved with it at the same level?

Yes. From a pathology point of view, it's a fascinating virus.

What do you think future research on Ebola should look at?

I think it should focus on the pathogenesis and mechanisms of infection, as well as finding the host reservoir. Until we know where this virus lives and exactly how it interacts with the human host , we will be handicapped in our search for an effective treatment.