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Science Magazine: Forty years later, Ebola survivors are still making antibodies to the lethal virus

Science Magazine featured an article about Dr. Anne Rimoin, associate professor in FSPH's Department of Epidemiology, who led a team of researchers, published a study on the effect of Ebola, four decades after infection, which led to findings that indicate Ebola survivors may be able to stave off future infections.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Forty years later, Ebola survivors are still making antibodies to the lethal virus

Forty years after the first documented Ebola outbreak, some of the survivors still have antibodies against the virus, a new study reveals. The find bolsters the widely held assumption that Ebola survivors remain immune to the virus for life. The work may also help guide development of new medicines and clarify the long-term health consequences of an Ebola infection.

In 1976, Ebola struck Yambuku, a small village in the northeast corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Of the 318 recorded cases, 280 people died. Epidemiologist Anne Rimoin of the University of California, Los Angeles, who has a lab in the DRC’s Kinshasa, in 2014 organized a trip to Yambuku with some of the researchers who responded to the 1976 outbreak, including epidemiologist Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus. The group was not planning on doing research—they were creating a documentary on epidemics—but Rimoin, who has worked in the DRC for 15 years investigating emerging infectious diseases, became intrigued by the idea of studying the survivors from 1976. “No one thought it would be possible to find them,” says Rimoin, who saw an opportunity to better understand how long immunity to Ebola persists. Other studies have examined immune responses of Ebola survivors from infections dating back only 11 years.

With help from the original outbreak investigators and Sukato Mandzomba, a lab technician who was among those infected that lived (and still works in the local hospital), Rimoin and her team tracked down survivors, ranging in age from 55 to 86, who were willing to give blood samples. Their analysis of those samples appears online today in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Read the full article from Science Magazine