Liverpool Researchers Show How Ebola Affects Retinae

Liverpool Researchers Show How Ebola Affects Retinae

A group of English researchers has just released a report examining retinal scars caused by the Ebola virus. Researchers believe this study could help doctors around the world better understand how Ebola lives on in the body even after the life-threatening symptoms have been subdued.

University of Liverpool scientists gathered images of torn retinae from former Ebola patients. They then ran these images through an optical coherence tomography (OCT) to get a clearer sense of what was going on in patients’ eyes.

Professors soon discovered these retinal scars were composed of many tears to different areas of the retinae, including damage to the photoreceptors. Study authors believe this finding is important because it shows how the Ebola virus migrates through the body’s neurons even after the life-threatening diseases are gone.

Besides the actual scar, scientists were curious about a peculiar black pigment located around the retinal scar in 90 percent of cases. Since these dark splotches were located in the Ellipsoid area of the eye, researchers hypothesize that this reaction has something to do with damage to the retinae’s mitochondria.

All of the images used in this study were taken from a 2016 report also put out by the University of Liverpool. In this previous study, ophthalmologists investigated the eyes of 82 former Ebola patients and 105 people unaffected by Ebola in Sierra Leone. One of the key findings from this study was that 15 percent of people who had Ebola also had scars in their retinae.

Study authors believe these findings clearly show that the Ebola virus remains in a person’s body even after major symptoms disappear. They believe further study of former Ebola patients’ retinae will lead to new discoveries on how this virus affects the central nervous system.

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976, but it became well-known around the world when it broke out in West Africa in 2014. A few of the countries that were most affected by this virus include Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Common ways Ebola spreads include sexual intercourse, sharing unclean needles, and kissing. Warning signs someone has Ebola include chills, headaches, nausea, and internal bleeding. It’s important for anyone traveling to nations affected by Ebola to talk with their primary care doctor before leaving.

Dr. Paul J. Steptoe, who works at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine, was the lead author on this study. A few other key professors involved in this research include Drs. Fayiah Momorie, Alimamy D. Fornah, and Sahr P. Komba.

Anyone interested in this research should pick up the latest copy of JAMA Ophthalmology. This study was published under the title, “Multimodal Imaging and Spatial Analysis of Ebola Retinal Lesions in 14 Survivors of Ebola Virus Disease.”

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