Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses to humans, can hide in the brain for years despite treatment. This has been observed by US researchers in monkeys that survived their first infection.
Ebola hiding in the brain
“We have found that about 20% 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,” said Xiankun Zen, principal investigator of the study published in Science Translational Medicine. The case of two monkeys is particularly disturbing. The animals survived the initial infection but eventually died due to a resurgence of the virus.
Ebola persisted in the brains of the monkeys that were treated with monoclonal antibodies
Long Ebola: 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. 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.
In 2021, researchers analyzed the case of a man in whom the virus remained latent for five years in his testicles. The man then infected a woman in Guinea, causing an outbreak in the region. Ebola vaccines and treatments can contain outbreaks, but researchers warn that long-term monitoring of survivors is needed to prevent outbreaks. Ebola is one of the deadliest human viruses known to man, and more than half of those infected succumb to the disease.
Survivors of the Ebola virus should be monitored long-term as they could spontaneously start outbreaks by spreading the virus to those closest to them. In fact, sexual transmissibility should also be looked into and those previously infected by ebola should disclose their status to any future potential sexual partner.