Ebola virus infects reproductive organs in monkeys

February 8, 2018, NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Colorized transmission electron micrograph of the ovary from a nonhuman primate infected with Ebola virus. Characteristic filamentous Ebola virus particles are present between cells (bright red). Intracytoplasmic Ebola virus inclusion bodies forming crystalline arrays can be seen within ovarian stromal cells (darker red). Credit: NIAID

Ebola virus can infect the reproductive organs of male and female macaques, according to a study published in The American Journal of Pathology, suggesting that humans could be similarly infected. Prior studies of survivors of the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa have revealed sexual transmission of Ebola virus, and that viral RNA (Ebola virus genetic material) can persist in semen following recovery. While little is known about viral persistence in female reproductive tissues, pregnant women with Ebola virus disease have a maternal death rate of more than 80 percent and a fetal death rate of nearly 100 percent.

In this study, investigators from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and from Thomas Jefferson University infected four female and eight male macaques with the Makona variant of Ebola virus, the variant responsible for the recent West Africa outbreak. All the macaques succumbed to Ebola disease and were euthanized six to nine days after infection. The scientists then took reproductive tissue samples from each macaque and analyzed the samples for signs of Ebola virus infection, organ and tissue damage, and immune responses. They found widespread Ebola virus infection of with minimal tissue immune response or signs of disease.

Based on the findings, the authors hypothesize that Ebola virus can persist in these tissues in human survivors, and that the virus may reach seminal fluid in men by infecting immune cells called tissue macrophages. However, it is unclear if the detection of Ebola virus RNA in semen documented in human studies means that infectious virus is present. The authors note that additional research is needed to learn how Ebola virus persists in these sites, to determine if drugs and vaccines can cure or prevent such infections, and to understand the mechanisms of sexual transmission, including why it appears to occur only rarely in people. To do this, NIAID scientists are developing a new nonhuman primate model of Ebola virus disease in which monkeys survive infection. Few macaques survive in the current model, making it difficult to study virus persistence and its long-term impacts.

Explore further: Ebola detected in semen of survivors two years after infection

More information: DL Perry et al. Ebola virus replication in the reproductive tract of acutely affected male and female macaques. American Journal of Pathology DOI: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2017.11.004 (2018).

Related Stories

Ebola detected in semen of survivors two years after infection

August 2, 2017
Ebola virus RNA can persist in the semen of survivors more than two years after the onset of infection researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found. The research team, which included investigators ...

Ebola virus exploits host enzyme for efficient entry to target cells

February 7, 2018
Researchers have identified a key process that enables the deadly Ebola virus to infect host cells, providing a novel target for developing antiviral drugs. The Ebola virus incorporates a cellular enzyme into its virus particles, ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Researchers inhibit Ebola virus

December 29, 2017
The incurable Ebola virus has long been feared due to its high mortality rate and danger of infection. Now researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Phillips Universität Marburg have succeeded in inhibiting the virus ...

Cerebrospinal fluid of survivors of Ebola virus disease examined

July 17, 2017
A new research letter published by JAMA Neurology reports on examinations of cerebrospinal fluid collected from survivors of Ebola virus disease (EVD) to investigate potential Ebola virus persistence in the central nervous ...

Super cell to contain deadly Ebola virus discovered in Australia

July 18, 2017
A super cell in the eye has been discovered that can stop the deadly Ebola virus.

Recommended for you

New hope for cystic fibrosis

October 19, 2018
A new triple-combination drug treatment being trialled at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane could increase the life expectancy of patients with cystic fibrosis.

Bug guts shed light on Central America Chagas disease

October 18, 2018
In Central America, Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, is spread by the "kissing bug" Triatoma dimidiata. By collecting DNA from the guts of these bugs, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases ...

Rapid genomic sequencing of Lassa virus in Nigeria enabled real-time response to 2018 outbreak

October 18, 2018
Mounting a collaborative, real-time response to a Lassa fever outbreak in early 2018, doctors and scientists in Nigeria teamed up with researchers at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and colleagues to rapidly sequence the ...

Researchers cure drug-resistant infections without antibiotics

October 17, 2018
Biochemists, microbiologists, drug discovery experts and infectious disease doctors have teamed up in a new study that shows antibiotics are not always necessary to cure sepsis in mice. Instead of killing causative bacteria ...

Infectious disease consultation significantly reduces mortality of patients with bloodstream yeast infections

October 17, 2018
In a retrospective cohort study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases, patients with candidemia—a yeast infection in the bloodstream—had more positive outcomes as they relate ...

How drug resistant TB evolved and spread globally

October 17, 2018
The most common form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) originated in Europe and spread to Asia, Africa and the Americas with European explorers and colonialists, reveals a new study led by UCL and the Norwegian Institute ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.