a hospital room with two beds

Ebola Strikes Back: A Survivor Passes On The Virus 5 Years Later

The carrier could have transmitted the infection through semen

The scientific community could not believe it.  A person who managed to overcome Ebola has infected others five years after surviving the pandemic that swept through West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Thus, this person would have carried the virus in his body all this time, which explains why he was now able to transmit it to others.

The record stood at 531 days. This is the time during which an Ebola patient maintained his ability to infect others after having suffered from the disease. The virus was detected in the patient's semen. Now scientists are once again surprised by an even more unprecedented case. This Ebola survivor is the source of the current outbreak of the virus that was detected last February in Guinea.

Ebola can hide for years in areas such as the testicles

The discovery of the infectious survivor has been possible thanks to the genetic study of the virus from the current outbreak carried out by scientists from Guinea, the Pasteur Institute in Senegal, the University of Nebraska and the University of Edinburgh.

The researchers compared genetic sequences from the 2014 outbreak with samples from the current outbreak and were surprised to see that it was not a new virus jump from an animal host to a human, and that, after five years, the sequences of the two viruses have only a dozen differences, when they should have at least a hundred with so much time in between. 

It was known that the virus could hide for years in areas such as the testicles, eyeballs or spinal cord fluid and that, indeed, the virus can reactivate in the carrier and re-infect, for example, through sexual intercourse, as in the case of the patient who until now held the record for keeping the virus inside his body once he had overcome the disease. Now this new case could help to confirm the hypothesis.

How serious is Ebola?

The disease caused by the Ebola virus is severe, with a mortality rate of up to 90% in humans, although the rate has varied between 25% and 90% in outbreaks in recent years. It is considered, in fact, one of the most lethal viral infections if the patient does not receive suitable treatment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50 out of every 100 people who contract the disease die.

The virus, of American origin, was detected for the first time in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in territories near the Ebola river which, precisely, gave it its name. But its exact origin is not 100% confirmed, as is the case with the current coronavirus pandemic. Even so, the WHO points to the bat in both cases, an animal that collects a large number of viruses.

Ebola is transmitted by contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person and causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting or diarrhea, most of them very similar to those experienced by many COVID patients.

[This is a translation of the original article "El Ébola contraataca: un superviviente contagia el virus 5 años después" published in espanadiario.net]