Scientists find Ebola virus antibodies in people before 2018 DRC outbreak

November 04, 2020

Scientists found antibodies to Ebola virus in people up to a year before the 2018 Ebola virus disease outbreak began in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC. This suggests that either early cases may have been missed or that exposure occurs more commonly than previously thought, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis.

One Health Outlook, also documents the first detection of antibodies to Bombali ebolavirus in a person, showing that spillover of that virus from bats to humans has likely occurred. Scientists from the UC Davis One Health Institute and Columbia University discovered Bombali virus -- a sixth ebolavirus species -- in bats in Sierra Leone in 2018.

"This study highlights that, yes, these are lethal diseases, but there's a range of severity -- not everyone who is exposed dies," said lead author Tracey Goldstein, an associate director of the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. "Spillover doesn't always cause lethal outbreaks. To prevent outbreaks, we need a better understanding of what's happening between them. If you really are trying to understand how a virus works, you need to study it at all times, not just during an outbreak."

WOMEN AT INCREASED RISK

For the study, scientists collected and tested biological samples from 272 people seeking care in the Rutshuru Health Zone of North Kivu Province over the year before the start of the outbreak that killed nearly 2,300 people. Antibodies, which indicate past exposure to a virus, were found in 10 percent of patients.

Scientists also administered questionnaires to patients to collect demographic and behavioral information, and to better understand their interactions with domestic animals and wildlife.

While people of both sexes and all ages tested positive for antibodies, women had a significantly increased risk of exposure. This is consistent with other studies and may be due to the larger role women play in preparing food and caring for livestock and sick family members.

"These findings are important for those of us who live in eastern Congo, because it shows that people may become exposed to Ebola virus without becoming ill," said Jean-Paul Kabemba Lukusa, the Gorilla Doctors' medical technologist who coordinated human surveillance for this study. "It helps reinforce the work we do to explain to people how important it is to limit direct contact with wild animals and to follow hygiene and safety best practices."

MOVING FORWARD

The study also demonstrates the need to address how humans come into contact with wildlife and the viruses they exchange.

Co-author Kirsten Gilardi directs the UC Davis Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the Gorilla Doctors program, which provides veterinary care to wild mountain and eastern lowland gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC. As the region's country lead for the USAID PREDICT Project, Gorilla Doctors sampled both wildlife and humans for viruses that may be circulating among them.

"These findings suggest there are more spillover events than we realize," Gilardi said. "This may not happen once in a while and then the virus disappears. Preventing spillover means understanding and minimizing high-risk human-to-wildlife interactions."
-end-
Funding for the study was provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT Project.

University of California - Davis

Related Ebola Virus Articles from Brightsurf:

Targeting the shell of the Ebola virus
As the world grapples with COVID-19, the Ebola virus is again raging.

New universal Ebola vaccine may fight all four virus species that infect humans
Infectious disease scientists report early development of a potential universal vaccine for Ebola viruses that preclinical tests show might neutralize all four species of these deadly viruses infecting people in recent outbreaks, mainly in Africa.

Researchers show how Ebola virus hijacks host lipids
Robert Stahelin studies some of the world's deadliest viruses. Filoviruses, including Ebola virus and Marburg virus, cause viral hemorrhagic fever with high fatality rates.

Recognise and control new variants of the deadly Ebola virus more quickly
Joint press release by the DZIF and Charité. The situation is extraordinary: there have only ever been four declarations of public health emergencies of international concern in the past and now there are two at the same time.

Investigational drugs reduce risk of death from Ebola virus disease
The investigational therapeutics mAb114 and REGN-EB3 offer patients a greater chance of surviving Ebola virus disease (EVD) compared to the investigational treatment ZMapp, according to published results from a clinical trial conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Researchers learn how Ebola virus disables the body's immune defenses
A new study by researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston uncovered new information on why the Ebola virus can exert such catastrophic effects on the infected person.

Mutant live attenuated Ebola virus immunizes non-human primates
Inoculation with an Ebola virus that has mutations in a protein called VP35 does not cause disease and elicits protection in monkeys, researchers show Sept.

Groundbreaking study could lead to fast, simple test for Ebola virus
In a breakthrough that could lead to a simple and inexpensive test for Ebola virus disease, researchers have generated two antibodies to the deadly virus.

RIT professor develops microfluidic device to better detect Ebola virus
A faculty-researcher at Rochester Institute of technology has developed a prototype micro device with bio-sensors that can detect the deadly Ebola virus.

NEJM applying universal standards of care to Ebola virus disease
LSTM's Senior Clinical Lecturer, Dr. Shevin Jacob, is corresponding author on a perspective piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine calling for universal standards of care to be applied in relation to ebola virus disease.

Read More: Ebola Virus News and Ebola Virus Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.