Interview with Karl M. Johnson, M.D.

What were your motivations for working with Ebola?

I was head of the Special Pathogens lab at CDC. Investigating deadly virus diseases was our mission.

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

Sure; even more might have been done. First two weeks in Zaire we did not know how virus got from person to person. Most of doctors dead. That was scary. When we found that it did not fly around in the air, we were able to relax a bit and keep going.

What do you think of the media's coverage of Ebola and Marburg?

Mixed bag. Preston's original article in New Yorker (24 Oct, '94) was a gem. The Hot Zone book had a bit of exxageration. Garret get s some things right, makes many errors. "Outbreak" was a horrid cartoon, after early scenes that did good job of showing what a hot lab is all about.

Where do you think future research on these viruses should go?

We still need to find the tropical reservoir. Depending on what it is, there may or may not be much doable, except to say "avoid." We need to find out why antibodies to this virus do not neutralize it. Important for vaccine strategy. But maybe cell-mediated immunity can be induced or even that DNA cpmplementary to the RNA genome might offer hope. Also, work on anti viral drugs is important--and shows some hope at moment.