Nav: Home

Half of Ebola outbreaks go undetected, study finds

June 13, 2019

Half of Ebola outbreaks have gone undetected since the virus was discovered in 1976, scientists at the University of Cambridge estimate. The new findings come amid rising concern about Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and highlight the need for improved detection and rapid response to avoid future epidemics.

The research, led by Emma Glennon from Cambridge's Department of Veterinary Medicine, is the first to estimate the number of undetected Ebola outbreaks. Although these tend to involve clusters of fewer than five people, they could represent well over 100 patient cases in total. The study, published today in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, found that the chance of detecting an isolated case of Ebola was less than 10 per cent.

Glennon, a Gates Cambridge Scholar, says: "Most times that Ebola has jumped from wildlife to people, this spillover event hasn't been detected. Often these initial cases don't infect anyone else but being able to find and control them locally is crucial because you never know which of these events will grow into full outbreaks."

"We rarely find Ebola outbreaks while they are still easy to manage. The unfolding epidemic in the DRC demonstrates how difficult it is to stop the disease once it has got out of control, even with international intervention. But if an outbreak is detected early enough, we can prevent it spreading with targeted, low-tech interventions, such as isolating infected people and their contacts."

The scientists used three independent datasets from the 2013-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa to simulate thousands of outbreaks. From these simulations, they worked out how often they would expect a spillover event to fizzle out early versus how often they would expect to see it progress into a true outbreak. This allowed the team to draw comparisons with reported outbreak sizes and estimate detection rates of clusters of different sizes.

Glennon says: "Most doctors and public health workers have never seen a single Ebola case and severe fever can easily be misdiagnosed as the symptom of malaria, typhoid or yellow fever. To limit outbreaks at their source, we need to invest much more to increase local capacity to diagnose and contain Ebola and these more common fevers. We must make sure every local clinic has basic public health and infection control resources. International outbreak responses are important but they are often slow, complicated and expensive."
-end-
Reference:

Glennon, E.E., Jephcott, F.L., Restif, O., Wood, J.L.N., 'Estimating undetected Ebola spillovers', PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007428

Funding: Gates-Cambridge Trust (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [OPP1144]), the ALBORADA Trust, the Medical Research Council (MR/P025226/1).

University of Cambridge

Related Ebola Articles:

Ebola antibodies at work
Scientists in Israel and Germany show, on the molecular level, how an experimental vaccine offers long-term protection against the disease.
Half of Ebola outbreaks undetected
An estimated half of Ebola virus disease outbreaks have gone undetected since it was discovered in 1976, according to research published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Half of Ebola outbreaks go undetected, study finds
Half of Ebola outbreaks have gone undetected since the virus was discovered in 1976, scientists at the University of Cambridge estimate.
Protecting those on the frontline from Ebola
Online training developed at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) increased the knowledge of health care workers about effective prevention of Ebola up to 19 percent and reduced critical errors to 2.3 percent in a small MUSC cohort.
Another piece of Ebola virus puzzle identified
A team of researchers have discovered the interaction between an Ebola virus protein and a protein in human cells that may be an important key to unlocking the pathway of replication of the killer disease in human hosts.
How the human immune system protects against Ebola
'The current approach for treatment of filovirus infections with antibody cocktails tested in animal models utilizes the principle of targeting of non-overlapping epitopes.
How to slow down Ebola
The phylogenetic tree of the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic doesn't just tell us how the Ebola virus was able to evolve: it also reveals which events and preventive measures accelerated or slowed down its spread.
Study provides further insight into how Ebola affects the eye
A new study, conducted by the researchers from the University of Liverpool, published in JAMA Ophthalmology identifies the specific characteristics of Ebola retinal lesions, which provide further clues as to how the virus travels to the retina and causes damage.
New breakthrough paving the way for universal Ebola therapeutic
A new collaborative study has identified and studied Ebola antibodies that could be used to design universal therapeutics that are effective against many different Ebola species.
Preprints accelerated between Ebola and Zika epidemics
Preprints -- scientific manuscripts that are posted at a recognized online repository before peer review -- have the potential to speed up the reporting of scientific research in infectious disease outbreaks, argue Michael Johansson and colleagues in an Essay in PLOS Medicine.
More Ebola News and Ebola Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.