Monday, March 27, 2017

New Study Says Ebola Virus Stays in Survivors' Semen For 9 Months


It was just two weeks ago that the World Health Organization said there haven't been any new cases of Ebola since March  — but the disease that devastated an entire continent last summer could still be hiding in survivors.

 A New England Journal of Medicine preliminary report found that Ebola can survive at least nine months in the semen of male survivors. This is thefirst large scale follow-up of survivors. Two-thirds of men still had Ebola in their semen up to six months after infection and a quarter of survivors still had it after nine months. 

But don't freak out yet — just because the genetic material is there doesn't mean they have a live virus that leads to them showing symptoms of vomiting, internal bleeding, diarrhea or possibly bleeding from the eyes. More research is needed.

But the findings show Ebola stays in the system much longer than we thought. We originally thought the virus stayed in semen for at most 82 days after victim showed symptoms. There are over 17,000 survivors.

We've known that Ebola can exist in the eyes and breast milk and semen during that period, but it wasn't thought to cause a serious health risk. During sex, males were told to always use condoms. 

In total, the virus killed over 11, 300 people in West Africa.

Reuters TV examines the ramifications of the new study

Researchers analyzed the genetic code of the virus in 93 men from Sierra Leone at different times, finding that the disease stuck with nine out of nine survivors after three months.  

65% of men (26 out of 40 tested) between four and six months

26% of men (11 out of 43 tested) between seven and nine months

Sexual transmission is "rare"

A separate study released in the same issue adds that Ebola can spread from sex with a survivor six months after they showed symptoms.

The World Health Organization (WHO), who funded the study, said that sexual transmission was "rare". Large populations in Sierra Leone where high numbers of survivors live see no recurrences. The director general of WHO, Margaret Chan said:

"Does it mean they are still infectious or are they just fragments? We don't have the definitive evidence yet ... The degree of uncertainty is worrying, that's why we need to take precautionary measures, so we advise survivors to take protection through contraception."

Refresher of how Ebola spreads

Wednesday it was announced that a Scottish nurse who contracted the virus earlier this year is currently dealing with complications from the disease

One of those rare cases where the virus sends a patient back to hospital with symptoms came on Wednesday when a Scottish nursewho contracted Ebola was announced to be critically ill in hospital. The case of 39-year-old Pauline Cafferkey could be a one-off, but it might not be. Further study is needed to figure out how often the virus causes symptom in survivors.

Johnson and Johnson began clinical trials for an Ebola vaccine several days ago as the disease has no cure yet.

Main image via BBC News | Thinkstock


Author: verified_user