An article published in the magazine “Cell Host & Microbe” describes a study on blood samples taken from patients suffering from Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone. A team of researchers coordinated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison thoroughly analyzed the samples and identified several Ebola virus signatures including 11 biomarkers distinguishing between fatal and non-fatal infections and 2 predicting accurately which patients are more likely to die.
Ebolavirus is a genus of viruses that includes 5 species of which 4 cause Ebola virus disease (EVD). The one commonly called Ebola virus or EBOV is actually the Zaire ebolavirus species. It’s a negative-sense single-stranded RNA virus (ssRNA-) that has a very high mortality rate in humans. This characteristic almost always prevented its spread outside a restricted area but occasionally it manages to get out of it and in those cases it can kill thousands of people in a short time.
For a long time after its identification in 1976, only a few laboratories carried out research on Ebola virus. Things changed after what is known as the 2014 West African Ebola virus epidemic, which caused over 10,000 deaths. Efforts were multiplied thanks to a huge funding of the research laboratories and this led to the creation of various possible vaccines. However, the danger still exists so the research went on to understand how Ebola virus works.
During the epidemic that broke out in 2014, some of the authors of the article went to Sierra Leone, where they set up a laboratory in a military hospital in response to the contagion that had hit the capital city Freetown. In collaboration with the national government, they took blood samples from patients who were diagnosed with Ebola virus contagion and after they received the cures that were developed.
The researchers got 29 samples from 11 surviving patients and 9 samples from as many patients wh died from the Ebola virus. In the research, these samples were compared with those of 10 people not exposed to the Ebola virus. The samples were studied in an extremely thorough way to detect any abnormal component that may indicate symptoms of the disease but also its severity.
This highly sophisticated study revealed many of the molecular signals present in people affected by the Ebola virus. These discoveries offer new valuable information to better understand Ebola virus disease and improve treatment management in its administration and efficacy.