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New research shows Ebola can hide in humans for years before killing again

Public health advocates are holding an Ebola awareness and prevention event on August 18, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia, in the midst of West Africa's deadliest outbreak to date between 2013 and 2016.

Public health advocates are holding an Ebola awareness and prevention event on August 18, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia, in the midst of West Africa’s deadliest outbreak to date between 2013 and 2016.
Photo: John Moore (Getty Images)

A new genetic study appears to confirm scientists’ fears of a deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea in February this year: the source of the outbreak was likely dormant remains of the virus in a survivor who contracted it at least five years earlier. The discovery could complicate efforts to contain an evolving viral disease.

In late January 2021, a 51-year-old nurse from a West African country contracted Ebola (formally known as Ebola virus disease, or EVD). Like many victims, she initially experienced vague symptoms such as headache, nausea, and general weakness. Although she was hospitalized, doctors unfortunately misdiagnosed her with malaria and a salmonella infection and was sent home two days later. She fell ill again at home and died three days later.

After her death, her husband and other family members who attended her funeral also fell ill, and four eventually died. These cases have finally been reported to the national health authorities. By mid-February, blood samples confirmed the outbreak, and healthcare workers rushed to control it. Between February and June 2021, when the outbreak was officially announced to end, there were 16 confirmed cases and 12 deaths.

Ebola virus outbreaks typically begin with the transmission of zoonosis from an infected animal to humans, with some bats considered the primary hosts of the virus. But early analysis of the first blood samples collected from victims during this outbreak showed that something else was happening. The virus found in their blood was very similar to the variant collected from survivors in 2013-2013.An outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2016, the largest and deadliest epidemic of the virus to date, with more than 11,000 deaths. Scientists coming soon suspect the virus somehow returned from the human host years later and killed again.

This is new research published The environment is in nature, but almost all of this is guessed as true. Researchers in Guinea, France and Germany have performed genetic sequencing of a new generation of the virus collected from 12 victims of the outbreak, using it to construct complete or nearly complete genomes of the virus. THe then used this information to build a family tree of the strains and compare them to the virus that floated about five years ago.

The virus found in Guinea this year was indeed closely related to the virus found earlier. The authors stated that the outbreak in West Africa, pointing out that “the new outbreak was not the result of a new side effect from the animal reservoir.” What’s more, they found no signs of significant genetic discrepancy between that time and the present, suggesting that it was not transmitted to a significant extent between humans during this time. Instead, the original virus could cause a persistent but slowly spreading infection with reduced reproduction in the survivor, or it could become completely latent and then reactivated for some unknown reason, making the survivor infectious again.

Scientists known after an outbreak in West Africa, the virus may survive unnoticed by victims for some time after complete recovery, especially in areas of the body where the immune system is less active, such as v eyes or sperm. But the longest known lapse of time between contracting a virus and passing it on to another or recurring illness has previously been about a year. and a half. The significantly larger transmission window of the virus means that communities may be more vulnerable to future outbreaks than is currently believed. The authors warn that it can also make life harder for survivors who already tend to experience discrimination and prejudice from others.

“The human origins of the 2021 EVD outbreak and the associated shift in our perception of the occurrence of EBOV warrant close attention to disease survivors,” they write. “The concern that survivors will be branded as a source of danger should be a subject of close scrutiny.”

In this case, it is possible that the unknown patient zero could have transmitted the virus during intercourse. But given that the first new victim was a nurse, the patient could also have re-emergence of symptoms that led to seeking medical attention and transmitting the infection at this point. Nurse she may have a return of a latent infection, although this is less likely as she did not have a previously documented case.

On the big-The authors say the findings should fuel research to find ways to keep survivors free from viruses and protect communities after the outbreak subsides.

“In addition to the importance of appropriate medical interventions for survivors, the late resurgence of the virus also highlights the urgent need for further research on potent antiviral agents that can destroy the latent reservoir of the virus in EVD patients, as well as effective vaccines that provide long-term protection,” wrote they.

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