From 2013 to 2016, the deadly Ebola virus swept across West Africa in an unprecedented outbreak. Studies of patients treated in Europe and the United States have suggested that Ebola might cause lung damage by replicating itself in lung tissue. However, no direct evidence for that conclusion yet exists.
Scientists have, however, found potential evidence of Ebola virus replication in the lungs of a person recovering from infection, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens. They found that viral RNA and viral replication markers remained hidden in the lungs for about five days after they were no longer detected in the blood.
Specifically, the Italian scientists monitored the lung levels of viral RNA fragments known to be associated with Ebola replication in an evacuated health worker from West Africa. Then they compared them with viral RNA levels in the patient’s blood.
What their study suggests is that Ebola virus may have been actively replicating in the lungs. “This suggests a major role of the respiratory tissues in the pathogenesis of Ebola virus disease,” the authors explain.
Further research will be needed to better understand the potential role of lung infection in Ebola and whether it may be a factor in transmission of the virus from one human to another.