Ebola May Persist This Long in Survivors’ Semen
By Alan Mozes
And a related case report illustrates why this latest discovery is so concerning: Scientists from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Maryland found evidence in blood and semen samples that a male Ebola survivor from Liberia infected his female partner a full six months after his blood tested negative for the deadly virus. His semen sample tested positive.
The first study stems from an ongoing effort to track the fallout from last year’s Ebola outbreak. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the deadly virus has claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people, and infected an estimated 28,000 in three West African nations: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Researchers from the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation have spent the last year monitoring the bodily fluids of 93 male Ebola survivors whose symptoms have largely subsided.
In the Oct. 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a team led by Dr. Gibrilla Deen, from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, reported that more than one-quarter of the men who provided samples seven to nine months after the first sign of symptoms had semen that tested positive for Ebola. The case report appears in the same issue of the journal.
“I think this has really important implications, because we really know very little about this virus,” said Dr. William Fischer, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.
“And this demonstrates that the problems inflicted by Ebola don’t necessarily end with clearance of the virus from the blood,” added Fischer, who was not involved in the study.
The study team first looked for signs of Ebola in semen samples obtained from nine Sierra Leone patients during the three months following their onset of symptoms. Ebola was found in 100 percent of those samples.