Sunday, September 4, 2016

Persistence of the Ebola virus in a patient for more than 500 days

Electron micrograph of Ebola Zaire virus. This is the first photo ever taken,on 10/13/76 by Dr. F.A. Murphy, now at UC Davis, then at CDC. Via virology.net
A new case study has shown that Ebola virus can survive in human testes for far longer than anticipated and is capable of causing an outbreak more than a year after recovery from symptoms. To be more precise, the Ebola virus was detected in his semen 531 days after he recovered from Ebola and 470 days after he recovered, the virus was sexually transmitted and a new outbreak of the disease happened in Guinea and Liberia until it was contained. To date, this is the longest record of a period of a filvovirus being found still in a patient.

This study presents new findings that could impact the control strategies for future Ebola outbreaks. Right now we don't know how many people can harbor the Ebola virus after survival and if this individual is unique in this regard. However, this study shows the benefit that surveillance after an Ebola outbreak can have. If surveillance stops too early, a resurgent outbreak could be missed until it's widespread. Luckily in this case, health care authorities were able to contain the outbreak before it spread too far.

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