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Concept: Viral hemorrhagic fever


Ebola viruses (EBOV) cause often fatal hemorrhagic fever in several species of simian primates including human. While fruit bats are considered natural reservoir, involvement of other species in EBOV transmission is unclear. In 2009, Reston-EBOV was the first EBOV detected in swine with indicated transmission to humans. In-contact transmission of Zaire-EBOV (ZEBOV) between pigs was demonstrated experimentally. Here we show ZEBOV transmission from pigs to cynomolgus macaques without direct contact. Interestingly, transmission between macaques in similar housing conditions was never observed. Piglets inoculated oro-nasally with ZEBOV were transferred to the room housing macaques in an open inaccessible cage system. All macaques became infected. Infectious virus was detected in oro-nasal swabs of piglets, and in blood, swabs, and tissues of macaques. This is the first report of experimental interspecies virus transmission, with the macaques also used as a human surrogate. Our finding may influence prevention and control measures during EBOV outbreaks.

Concepts: Human, Influenza, Mammal, Primate, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Simian, Crab-eating Macaque


Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a contagious, severe and often lethal form of hemorrhagic fever in humans. The association of EVD outbreaks with forest clearance has been suggested previously but many aspects remained uncharacterized. We used remote sensing techniques to investigate the association between deforestation in time and space, with EVD outbreaks in Central and West Africa. Favorability modeling, centered on 27 EVD outbreak sites and 280 comparable control sites, revealed that outbreaks located along the limits of the rainforest biome were significantly associated with forest losses within the previous 2 years. This association was strongest for closed forests (>83%), both intact and disturbed, of a range of tree heights (5->19 m). Our results suggest that the increased probability of an EVD outbreak occurring in a site is linked to recent deforestation events, and that preventing the loss of forests could reduce the likelihood of future outbreaks.

Concepts: Forest, Biological warfare, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Ebola, Marburg virus, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Incubation period


Background Ebola virus has been detected in the semen of men after their recovery from Ebola virus disease (EVD), but little information is available about its prevalence or the duration of its persistence. We report the initial findings of a pilot study involving survivors of EVD in Sierra Leone. Methods We enrolled a convenience sample of 100 male survivors of EVD in Sierra Leone, at different times after their recovery from EVD, and recorded self-reported information about sociodemographic characteristics, the EVD episode, and health status. Semen specimens obtained at baseline were tested by means of a quantitative reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-PCR) assay with the use of the target-gene sequences of NP and VP40. Results A total of 93 participants provided an initial semen specimen for analysis, of whom 46 (49%) had positive results on quantitative RT-PCR. Ebola virus RNA was detected in the semen of all 9 men who had a specimen obtained 2 to 3 months after the onset of EVD, in the semen of 26 of 40 (65%) who had a specimen obtained 4 to 6 months after onset, and in the semen of 11 of 43 (26%) who had a specimen obtained 7 to 9 months after onset; the results for 1 participant who had a specimen obtained at 10 months were indeterminate. The median cycle-threshold values (for which higher values indicate lower RNA levels) were 32.0 with the NP gene target and 31.1 with the VP40 gene target for specimens obtained at 2 to 3 months, 34.5 and 32.3, respectively, for specimens obtained at 4 to 6 months, and 37.0 and 35.6, respectively, for specimens obtained at 7 to 9 months. Conclusions These data showed the persistence of Ebola virus RNA in semen and declining persistence with increasing months since the onset of EVD. We do not yet have data on the extent to which positivity on RT-PCR is associated with virus infectivity. Although cases of suspected sexual transmission of Ebola have been reported, they are rare; hence the risk of sexual transmission of the Ebola virus is being investigated. (Funded by the World Health Organization and others.).

Concepts: DNA, Microbiology, Genome, RNA, Biological warfare, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Sierra Leone


A suspected case of sexual transmission from a male survivor of Ebola virus disease (EVD) to his female partner (the patient in this report) occurred in Liberia in March 2015. Ebola virus (EBOV) genomes assembled from blood samples from the patient and a semen sample from the survivor were consistent with direct transmission. The genomes shared three substitutions that were absent from all other Western African EBOV sequences and that were distinct from the last documented transmission chain in Liberia before this case. Combined with epidemiologic data, the genomic analysis provides evidence of sexual transmission of EBOV and evidence of the persistence of infective EBOV in semen for 179 days or more after the onset of EVD. (Funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and others.).

Concepts: Gene, Epidemiology, Genome, Biological warfare, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Incubation period


Background Data from studies in nonhuman primates suggest that the triple monoclonal antibody cocktail ZMapp is a promising immune-based treatment for Ebola virus disease (EVD). Methods Beginning in March 2015, we conducted a randomized, controlled trial of ZMapp plus the current standard of care as compared with the current standard of care alone in patients with EVD that was diagnosed in West Africa by polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) assay. Eligible patients of any age were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either the current standard of care or the current standard of care plus three intravenous infusions of ZMapp (50 mg per kilogram of body weight, administered every third day). Patients were stratified according to baseline PCR cycle-threshold value for the virus (≤22 vs. >22) and country of enrollment. Oral favipiravir was part of the current standard of care in Guinea. The primary end point was mortality at 28 days. Results A total of 72 patients were enrolled at sites in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the United States. Of the 71 patients who could be evaluated, 21 died, representing an overall case fatality rate of 30%. Death occurred in 13 of 35 patients (37%) who received the current standard of care alone and in 8 of 36 patients (22%) who received the current standard of care plus ZMapp. The observed posterior probability that ZMapp plus the current standard of care was superior to the current standard of care alone was 91.2%, falling short of the prespecified threshold of 97.5%. Frequentist analyses yielded similar results (absolute difference in mortality with ZMapp, -15 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, -36 to 7). Baseline viral load was strongly predictive of both mortality and duration of hospitalization in all age groups. Conclusions In this randomized, controlled trial of a putative therapeutic agent for EVD, although the estimated effect of ZMapp appeared to be beneficial, the result did not meet the prespecified statistical threshold for efficacy. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; PREVAIL II number, NCT02363322 .).

Concepts: Microbiology, Prediction interval, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Malaise, Crab-eating Macaque, Sierra Leone, Western Red Colobus


Bats are sources of high viral diversity and high-profile zoonotic viruses worldwide. Although apparently not pathogenic in their reservoir hosts, some viruses from bats severely affect other mammals, including humans. Examples include severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses, Ebola and Marburg viruses, and Nipah and Hendra viruses. Factors underlying high viral diversity in bats are the subject of speculation. We hypothesize that flight, a factor common to all bats but to no other mammals, provides an intensive selective force for coexistence with viral parasites through a daily cycle that elevates metabolism and body temperature analogous to the febrile response in other mammals. On an evolutionary scale, this host-virus interaction might have resulted in the large diversity of zoonotic viruses in bats, possibly through bat viruses adapting to be more tolerant of the fever response and less virulent to their natural hosts.

Concepts: Bacteria, Evolution, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Mammal, Fever, Bat, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Natural reservoir


Tropical forests are undergoing land use change in many regions of the world, including the African continent. Human populations living close to forest margins fragmented and disturbed by deforestation may be particularly exposed to zoonotic infections because of the higher likelihood for humans to be in contact with disease reservoirs. Quantitative analysis of the nexus between deforestation and the emergence of Ebola virus disease (EVD), however, is still missing. Here we use land cover change data in conjunction with EVD outbreak records to investigate the association between recent (2004-2014) outbreaks in West and Central Africa, and patterns of land use change in the region. We show how in these EVD outbreaks the index cases in humans (i.e. spillover from wildlife reservoirs) occurred mostly in hotspots of forest fragmentation.

Concepts: Human, Africa, Continent, Madagascar, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Malaise, Prehistory, Central Africa


Among the survivors of Ebola virus disease (EVD), complications that include uveitis can develop during convalescence, although the incidence and pathogenesis of EVD-associated uveitis are unknown. We describe a patient who recovered from EVD and was subsequently found to have severe unilateral uveitis during convalescence. Viable Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV) was detected in aqueous humor 14 weeks after the onset of EVD and 9 weeks after the clearance of viremia.

Concepts: Microbiology, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Incubation period


Evidence for minimally symptomatic Ebola virus (EBOV) infection is limited. During the 2013-16 outbreak in West Africa, it was not considered epidemiologically relevant to published models or projections of intervention effects. In order to improve our understanding of the transmission dynamics of EBOV in humans, we investigated the occurrence of minimally symptomatic EBOV infection in quarantined contacts of reported Ebola virus disease cases in a recognized ‘hotspot.’

Concepts: Infectious disease, Biological warfare, Ebola, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Malaise, Incubation period


Poor quality housing is an infringement on the rights of all humans to a standard of living adequate for health. Among the many vulnerabilities of those without adequate shelter is the risk of disease spread by rodents and other pests. One such disease is Lassa fever, an acute and sometimes severe viral hemorrhagic illness endemic in West Africa. Lassa virus is maintained in the rodent Mastomys natalensis, commonly known as the “multimammate rat,” which frequently invades the domestic environment, putting humans at risk of Lassa fever. The highest reported incidence of Lassa fever in the world is consistently in the Kenema District of Sierra Leone, a region that was at the center of Sierra Leone’s civil war in which tens of thousands of lives were lost and hundreds of thousands of dwellings destroyed. Despite the end of the war in 2002, most of Kenema’s population still lives in inadequate housing that puts them at risk of rodent invasion and Lassa fever. Furthermore, despite years of health education and village hygiene campaigns, the incidence of Lassa fever in Kenema District appears to be increasing. We focus on Lassa fever as a matter of human rights, proposing a strategy to improve housing quality, and discuss how housing equity has the potential to improve health equity and ultimately economic productivity in Sierra Leone. The manuscript is designed to spur discussion and action towards provision of housing and prevention of disease in one of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Lassa fever, Sierra Leone, Freetown, Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone, Kenema District