Using genomic analysis, scientists have found that a woman in Liberia contracted the deadly Ebola virus early this year after having sexual intercourse with a male survivor of the disease.
The work provides molecular evidence of Ebola virus (EBOV) transmission between an Ebola virus disease survivor and his female partner, the researchers said. The findings were a result of collaboration between US Army scientists with the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR).
It also demonstrates the value of real-time genomic surveillance during an outbreak, according to senior author Gustavo Palacios from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).
Scientists working at the LIBR earlier this year analyzed blood samples from a female patient who tested positive for EBOV in March 2015 when there had been no new documented cases for 30 days, Suzanne Mate of USAMRIID said.
The patient was reported to have had recent sexual intercourse with a male partner who had survived EVD and had been declared EBOV negative in early October 2014. Following the patient's death on March 27, public health officials were able to secure the consent of the male survivor to obtain and test a semen sample from him.
"Ebola virus genomes assembled from the patient's blood and the survivor's semen were consistent with direct transmission," Jason Ladner of USAMRIID said. Ebola virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans and non-human primates with high mortality rates and continues to emerge in new geographic locations, including Western Africa, the site of the largest recorded outbreak to date.
Over 28,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases have been reported so far in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with over 11,000 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine