Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ebola Thought to Linger in the Lungs

Even after patients have recovered, Ebola virus has been found in a number of places in the body and in various bodily fluids, including semen, breast milk, the placenta, amniotic fluid, eyes, and the central nervous system. A study recently published in PLOS Pathogens identifies the lungs as another place in which the virus might reside after recovery.

The case study involves a health care worker infected in Sierra Leone who was treated in Rome. Ebola virus RNA was detected in the lower respiratory tract even after viral clearance from serum. Although it is possible that the RNA found in the nasopharyngeal swab was the result of plasma spill-over or enhanced RNA stability, the presence of both positive and negative RNA suggests viral replication in the respiratory tract. This suggests a role of respiratory tissues in Ebola pathogenesis and possibly transmission.

(Top figure shows EBOV RNA in serum as a function of length of hospital stay, while bottom figure shows EBOV RNA in a nasopharyngeal swab as a function of duration of hospital stay.)

-Sally Tran


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