Ebola may resurface after being dormant in the human body for five years

A new study published in the journal Nature about the Ebola virus has demonstrated an ability hitherto unknown to science. A new outbreak, registered earlier this year in Guinea, Africa, was linked to an infection that dated back five years, representing an unprecedented period of dormancy of the pathogen in the body.

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    Scientists until then already knew that Ebola could remain dormant in a patient, but this period of five years changes the understanding of the risks of the disease and the emergence of new outbreaks.

    In January 2016, Guinea had a small outbreak with 91 infected , among whom 10 died from the disease. The damage was not greater because of a previous experience with the virus, between the years of 1919 and 2016, left the country equipped to deal with the crisis and on the alert for new cases.

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    However, when performing the genomic analysis of the virus in the new outbreak, the researchers realized that the strain circulating in the outbreak of 2021 contained basically the same mutations observed in the wave of 2013. The virus in this specific format is no longer found in bats in nature, which leads to the conclusion that it was “frozen in time”, without undergoing new mutations in a human host until it manifests again.

    Discovering a longer-than-expected dormancy period may change the way you look at Ebola (Image: Bhossfeld/Pixabay)

    The analysis shows that there were very few mutations in this period; the normal rate of virus transformation would be five times faster than that observed in the samples.

    In the past, the viral presence was already observed in the semen after 500 days of infection and at least one case of transmission detected after this period, but nothing like five years.

    What is not known so far is in which tissue Ebola manages to “hide” for so long and the mechanisms that allow it this period of dormancy. In general, RNA viruses remain in the organism and integrate with the host genome, but this does not seem to be the case for Ebola, which does not have the necessary genes for this.

    Anyway, it does. yourself of a rare event, as evaluated in past studies. Currently, there are 91 one thousand survivors of the outbreak of 1919-2021, then there is room for unusual cases to occur.

    The study can be accessed through this link.

    Source: Ars Technica

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