Guinea Ebola outbreak probably caused by reinfection, researchers say

This 12 months’s Ebola outbreak in Guinea was most likely brought on by somebody who was initially contaminated through the 2014-16 west African eruption, in line with new analysis with severe implications concerning the longevity of one of many world’s most dangerous pathogens.

The newest outbreak has killed 9 individuals this 12 months, and the sooner outbreak killed greater than 11,000 individuals in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Genetic sequencing revealed that samples from the present outbreak are intently associated to strains from August 2014, in line with the report, which was launched on Friday.

It is extremely probably that an individual who contracted the virus beforehand and survived subsequently handed it on to another person, the analysis concluded, though it cautioned that “these results are still preliminary, and more sequencing and analyses are under way”.

“This is truly mind-blowing,” Dr Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University in Washington DC, wrote on Twitter. “The implications for controlling Ebola are extremely worrisome.”

Researchers had beforehand assumed the newest outbreak in Guinea, which was declared on February 14, was sparked by transmission from an animal similar to a bat. Both outbreaks started in the identical area, close to the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The extremely contagious illness is unfold by contact with bodily fluids. It causes haemorrhagic fever and extreme vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding.

It is uncommon for survivors to transmit the illness, however the virus is ready to cover throughout the human physique in locations the place the immune system can not attain it, together with the attention, the testes and the central nervous system. Scientists beforehand discovered that the virus may persist in a affected person for 500 days, and sexual transmission of the illness has been recognized.

The new analysis suggests it may persist for 4 or 5 occasions as lengthy. 

The World Health Organization kicked off a vaccination drive within the area on the coronary heart of the outbreak on February 23. But the brand new analysis has sparked requires extra widespread vaccination in west and central Africa, the place jabs made by Johnson & Johnson and Merck are typically solely deployed in response to outbreaks.

The findings counsel “we need to step up our efforts to provide Ebola vaccines to people in affected communities, including survivors”, Rasmussen mentioned on Twitter.

The analysis was performed by Guinea’s well being ministry, the Institut Pasteur in Senegal, the University of Nebraska Medical Center within the US, the corporate PraesensBio and the University of Edinburgh.

The virus may have been handed on through intercourse, the researchers instructed.

Dr Christian Happi, head of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, known as the outcomes of the research “stunning” however warned that the researchers could have jumped the gun by pointing to potential sexual transmission with out presenting any proof.

“I think it’s a bit sloppy to make such statements . . . it would have been best to say we don’t know the origin of this virus,” he mentioned, noting that many Ebola survivors endure stigmatisation, together with being shunned by their communities.

Like different sub-Saharan international locations, Guinea has not been drastically affected by the coronavirus pandemic, recording simply 102 confirmed deaths out of 17,591 instances over the previous 12 months.