Ebola virus leaves a retinal scar in survivors

Ebola virus leaves a retinal scar in survivors

Two years back, the Ebola virus had affected large populations in West Africa. Some of the survivors of the Ebola virus disease continue to experience symptoms of post-Ebola syndrome (PES) such as muscular and joint pain as well as neurological and psychiatric problems. It is known that the Ebola virus tends to stay alive in some parts of the body such as the eyes, brain, and spinal cord, a phenomenon that is known as “immune privilege.” These parts are delicate and are less immune to such virus. To determine whether the virus continues to live in the survivors’ eyes and what effect it has, a clinical research team from the University of Liverpool 's Institute of Translational Medicine conducted a study. The researchers conducted eye examinations – that also included the use of an ultra widefield retinal camera – of survivors discharged from the Ebola Treatment Unit in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and compared those with the eye examinations of the control group. It was found that 15% of Ebola survivors have a retinal scar that seems to have been a result of the Ebola virus disease. Dr Paul Steptoe who led the eye team said, “The distribution of these retinal scars or lesions provides the first observational evidence that the virus enters the eye via the optic nerve to reach the retina in a similar way to West Nile Virus.” He added that the vision is not affected as the virus does not affect the central part of the eye and that the aqueous fluid does not contain the virus. Follow-up studies aim to ascertain whether there could be a potential recurrence of the Ebola disease in the eyes of the survivors.

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