Nav: Home

Ebola survivors suffer from severe neurological problems

July 11, 2018

Researchers have shed new light on the psychiatric and neurological problems that Ebola survivors can suffer from, and call for more specialist support for the most severely affected patients.

A new report published in Emerging Infectious Diseases details a broad range of disorders among Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone, including stroke and debilitating migraine-type headaches. Some survivors are left unable to care for themselves.

The observational study was led by researchers at the University of Liverpool and King's Sierra Leone Partnership of King's College London, based in Connaught Hospital, Freetown and in collaboration with the Ebola Survivors Clinic at Military Hospital 34, Freetown, Sierra Leone, as part of an ongoing effort to better understand post-Ebola syndrome (PES) and improve on-going patient care following the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa.

To better understand the neurological and psychiatric effects of PES, adult patients with predetermined, significant symptoms such as confusion, depression and psychosis, were identified from the patient notes of over 300 Ebola survivors.

Thirty-four selected patients were invited to attend a joint neuro-psychiatric clinic in 2016 where they underwent a full neurological examination, psychiatric screening and specialist investigations including brain scan imaging.

The most frequent neurological diagnosis was migranous headache, followed by stroke, peripheral sensory neuropathy and focal peripheral nerve lesions. Most survivors had co-existent mental health needs, with the most frequent psychiatric diagnoses being major depressive disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.

Dr Janet Scott, who lead the Post Ebola Syndrome project at University of Liverpool, said: "We knew that a disease as severe as Ebola would leave survivors with major problems - however, it took me aback to see young and previously active people who had survived but were now unable to move half their bodies, or talk, or pick up their children. These cases are on the severe end of the spectrum- but thanks to support from the Wellcome Trust, we've been able to further investigate these cases and learn more about Ebola Virus Disease in the process. Our findings support the need for larger, case-controlled studies. Post-Ebola syndrome is not going away, and those with the condition deserve better treatment."

Dr Patrick Howlett, from King's College London, carried out this study. He said: "We found a broad set of neurological and psychiatric symptoms, from minor to extremely severe and disabling, are present in Ebola survivors well over a year after discharge from hospital. In our selected group intermittent headaches were the most frequent neurological feature, with a variety of associated symptoms. Connaught Hospital continues to provide specialist neurological care for these patients, however there is an urgent need to support training for specialist medical professionals who can meet the needs of this survivor population."

This was a broad collaboration coordinated from the University of Liverpool. The "Survivors Clinic" was based at Military Hospital 34, in Freetown, and got specialist input in Neurology and Psychiatry was provided by a Connaught Hospital, Freetown, with support from King's Sierra Leone Partnership. We called on the particular skills of Radiology and Ophthalmology Departments at the Royal Liverpool Hospital to interpret the CT Brain Scans and retinal images. It highlights the need for a team effort in considering these complex clinical cases.

Psychiatrist Dr Stephen Sevalie, 34 Military Hospital, added: "Psychiatric features of insomnia, depression and anxiety are common and our findings suggest that there is also a need for better understanding of the psychiatric and psychological consequences of Ebola Virus Disease. Although our Ebola Survivors Clinic includes an onsite councillor, there are many more who won't have access to the specialist care they need so we will continue to research and provide hands on support to ensure this happens."
-end-
The study and investigators were supported by the Wellcome Trust ERAES (Enhancing Research Activity in Epidemic Situations) programme, and grants from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool. Additional support was received from Advancing Partners & Communities, a programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development through JSI Research & Training Institute.

University of Liverpool

Related Ebola Articles:

Ebola survivors have a 'unique' retinal scar
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have conducted a study of Ebola survivors to determine if the virus has any specific effects on the back on the eye using an ultra widefield retinal camera.
Ebola: Lives to be saved with new management approach
Ebola outbreaks are set to be managed quickly and efficiently -- saving lives -- with a new approach developed by an international team of researchers, including the University of Warwick, which helps to streamline outbreak decision-making.
Ebola vaccines provide immune responses after 1 year
Immune responses to Ebola vaccines at one year after vaccination are examined in a new study appearing in the March 14 issue of JAMA.
New scoring system predicts Ebola severity
While Ebola virus disease (EVD) is notorious for being one of the world's most deadly infections, it actually has a wide range of outcomes, where asymptomatic presentation may be as common as fatality.
Could co-infection with other viruses affect the survival of those with Ebola virus?
Could co-infection with other viruses have a detrimental affect on Ebola survival, and why did some show Ebola symptoms without having the virus?
Antimalarial being tested as possible Ebola virus drug
The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) recently awarded $596,533.00 to Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Ebola map may help prepare for future outbreaks
To be prepared for new Ebola virus disease cases, it is fundamental to start by identifying the range of the virus and the regions that are more favorable for its propagation.
Sexual transmission of Ebola likely to impact course of outbreaks
Sexual transmission of the Ebola virus could have a major impact on the dynamics of the disease, potentially reigniting an outbreak that has been contained by public health interventions, according to research by University of Georgia ecologists just published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
Ebola vaccine: Promising phase I trials
The clinical phase I trial of a potential vaccine against the dreaded Ebola virus has been successfully completed at four partner sites in Africa and Europe.
Improving treatments for post-Ebola syndrome sufferers
Researchers from the University of Liverpool and the King's Sierra Leone Partnership are to present new findings into post-Ebola syndrome at a major European conference this week.

Related Ebola Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#518 With Genetic Knowledge Comes the Need for Counselling
This week we delve into genetic testing - for yourself and your future children. We speak with Jane Tiller, lawyer and genetic counsellor, about genetic tests that are available to the public, and what to do with the results of these tests. And we talk with Noam Shomron, associate professor at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, about technological advancements his lab has made in the genetic testing of fetuses.