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Ebola Patient Was Not Reinfected: Killed by Resurgence of Virus Lurking in Immune System

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (red) attached and budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell (25,000x magnification). NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Ft. Detrick, Md. Credit: NIAID

There was alarm last week among experts when the first reports came through that a patient had died after catching the deadly virus a second time – a case of reinfection with Ebola has never been documented and survivors are thought to be immune.

A post mortem confirmed that the man died because of a resurgence of the disease rather than a reinfection.

Margaret Ann Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization in DRC, said that there had been cases of survivors of the deadly virus falling ill again.1

The Ebola virus can hide in so-called immune sanctuaries in the body – particularly in the brain, spinal cord, eyes, testes and bone marrow.

“This was the second documentation of Ebola virus disease (EVD) illness in this individual within a 6-month period. Based on the preliminary sequencing of samples from the case, this is being classified as a relapse of EVD. Rare cases of relapse have been documented, in which a person who has recovered from EVD gets disease symptoms again, but this is the first documented relapse in this outbreak,” noted the World Health Organization.

In the past week, 24 new confirmed Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases were reported from three health zones in two affected provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 24 new cases from Mabalako and Biena are suspected to be linked to a single chain of transmission from this one individual was a potential source of infection for 24 people.2

A study earlier this year showed that Ebola survivors were five times more likely to die in the year following their recovery than the general population.


1. Experts breathe sigh of relief as WHO say Ebola patient was not reinfected with the deadly disease The Telegraph

2. Ebola Virus Disease Democratic Republic of Congo: External Situation Report 72 / 2019 World Health Organization

Edited by S. Lizotte

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