Ebola persists in survivors’ brains for years, re-emerging to spread & kill – study — Analysis

Researchers warn that new outbreaks could be due to the virus hiding in brains and being reactivated in patients who have been treated.

Researchers have warned that Ebola virus, one of the most deadly infectious diseases, may relapse. A study, published on Wednesday and dubbed “Innovating” by the scientific community, has found that Ebola may be hiding in the brain of those thought to have recovered years ago following an antibody treatment.

Such persistent infections in survivors make them spread the virus again, “Potentially causing another outbreak,” according to researchers. 

This study was done by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The recent Ebola outbreaks that have hit Africa were linked to the persistence of infection among patients who survived. Researchers sought to identify the location of the virus within the body to prevent the spread of antibodies. They used nonhuman primates to locate the virus. This model most closely resembles Ebola virus disease in humans. 

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They discovered “Severe inflammation and massive Ebola virus infections” in the brains of about one in five macaque monkeys that had received monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment. This virus was present in brain ventricular systems, where cerebrospinal liquid is created, circulated, contained, and maintained. The virus could resurface in brain ventricular system, where it caused lethal disease and severe damage to brain tissues, despite being eliminated from every other organ with the most effective treatments. 

These findings have implications for long-term follow-up efforts to reduce the individual (disease relapse/recrudescence) and public health (reignition of outbreaks) consequences of viral persistence in survivors of EBOV infection,” the authors warned. 

Between 2013 and 2016, more than 28,000.659 cases of Ebola were recorded in West Africa during the most recent epidemic. Over 11,300 victims died. However, survivors of the Ebola virus disease could carry it forward. An outbreak of Ebola virus disease was reported in Guinea last year. It was caused by some persistently infected cases, which were able to survive a major epidemic at least five years back. It was not known where the virus had hidden in the body.

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