The extremely lethal virus Ebola is able to ‘hide’ in the brain for years despite treatment and recovery, according to new research.
US researchers found that monkeys that survived an Ebola infection still carried the virus years later in their brains.
“We have found that about 20 per cent of monkeys that survived a lethal dose of the Ebola virus after treatment with monoclonal antibodies still had a persistent infection, particularly in the ventricular system of the brain, where cerebrospinal fluid is produced and circulates – and even after Ebola had been removed from other organs,” according to Xiankun Zen, principal investigator of the study published in Science Translational Medicine.
Zen stressed that the case of two monkeys was particularly disturbing: the animals survived the initial infection but eventually died due to a resurgence of the virus years later, unexpectedly.
Zen and his team call this ‘long Ebola’, or “the persistent presence of the Ebola virus in the brain caused the death of ependymocytes – a family of cells that are part of the blood-brain barrier in the choroid plexus,” according to a Gilmore Health report.
“Severe local inflammation occurred and the virus spread to the ventricular system of the brain, causing the animals to die.”
“The Ebola virus has also been shown previously to also hide in humans.”Gilmore Health report
Last year, researchers analysed the case of a man in whom the virus remained latent for five years in his testicles.
The man reportedly went on to infect a woman in Guinea, causing an outbreak in the local district where the two were residing.
Ebola vaccines and treatments can contain outbreaks, but researchers warn that long-term monitoring of survivors is needed to prevent outbreaks, Gilmore Health said.
Ebola is one of the deadliest human viruses known to man, and more than half of those infected succumb to the disease.