A blood test may help determine a person’s chance of surviving an Ebola infection, researchers say.
“It is not just defining how much Ebola virus that is present in a patient that defines whether a patient will survive. How the patient fights the infection is also key,” said John Connor, an associate professor of microbiology at Boston University School of Medicine.
Figuring out common aspects of how the immune system responds in people who have survived the often-deadly infection might help researchers learn ways to keep an Ebola virus infection from being fatal, Connor said in a university news release.
American and British scientists looked at blood samples from infected and surviving patients during the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The researchers identified a small number of genes whose “expression” accurately predicts survival of patients infected with the virus.
The blood samples also revealed that an immediate strong immune system response to Ebola doesn’t affect whether patients live or die. In addition, the findings showed that the virus causes significant liver damage.
According to study author Julian Hiscox, “Our study provides a benchmark of Ebola virus infection in humans, and suggests that rapid analysis of a patient’s response to infection in an outbreak could provide valuable predictive information on disease outcome.” Hiscox is a professor and virologist with the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool.
Another author, Miles Carroll, added, “This study helps us to further our understanding of the human response to Ebola virus infection.”
Carroll, director of research at Public Health England, said, “This understanding should enable more effective patient care resulting in improved clinical outcomes in future outbreaks.”
The study was published online Jan. 19 in the journal Genome Biology.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa sickened more than 28,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and killed more than 11,000.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Ebola.