Viral reproduction

A perfect shelter: How ebola lives on in the eyes of survivors

Researchers have found a clue to how the ebola virus may remain in the eyes of patients suffering from uveitis – one of the more serious and common complications of the disease. The eye now joins the testes as a location where live Ebola virus can be    found up to one year post-infection. A new study, describes how the    cells responsible for isolating the eye from the immune system, known   as  immune privilege, may also prevent clearance of the virus from   infected  tissue. The study drew on information gained from  observations  in  Sierra Leone where one in four Ebola survivors suffer  from uveitis,  or  inflammation inside the eye, a condition that can  result in vision  loss  or blindness. Sierra Leone was one of the  strongly affected  countries  after an ebola epidemic hit West Africa  three years ago.

The team of investigators introduced live Ebola virus to RPE cells in vitro, where the virus replicated readily.
Source: jaddingt / Shutterstock - Montage

Subdued immune response accountable

The international and interdisciplinary team of investigators, led by Justine Smith, Franzco, PhD, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology at Flinders University School of Medicine in Australia, introduced live Ebola virus to RPE cells in vitro. The scientists observed the virus readily replicated in the cells, while the cells continued their native function of expressing molecules that limit the ability of the immune system to fight infection. The resulting subdued immune response may be responsible for the persistence of live virus in the eye. Following these results, “there are so many questions that we can pursue,” said Smith. “One is understanding why some Ebola survivors harbor the virus and develop uveitis, while others do not. That answer should help us better understand the mechanisms of post-Ebola eye disease, as well as provide some leads on how to manage it.”

You can find more information about the study here.

Source: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology


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