Study shows Ebola virus may not manifest symptoms on certain patients; antibodies have defied detection

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Nov 18, 2016 04:53 AM EST

People infected with Ebola virus do not necessarily go ill. Some may have minimal symptoms and still very potent to infect others.

In at least one of the villages in Sierra Leone, a quarter of its residents are being infected and they may not even know it.

A statement posted in Biphoo says that a research published in the Public Library of Science journal "PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease" noted that "...25% of Ebola virus infections may have been minimally asymptomatic."

Between 2014 to 2016, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia all suffered from a massive Ebola outbreak due to very weak healthcare systems, lack of resources, and recent emergence from long periods of conflict and instability. Such has affected at least 28,000 people, 11,000 of which have died. But the true toll may never be known as some of the victims are buried immediately to prevent contamination.

Ebola virus was discovered in a village near the Ebola River - the place where scientists derived the virus' name, in 1976 with two simultaneous outbreaks. It spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact with blood, secretions, organs and other bodily fluids of the infected people, and with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids. People who are infected with the virus experience acute and serious illnesses, which are often fatal when not treated.

According to NBC news, doctors say that as patients suffering from Ebola get worse, the virus multiplies in their blood, bowels, and even urine and sweat, making them highly infectious to people caring for them.

Dr. Gene Richardson at Stanford University, alongside his colleagues across the US and Sierra Leone, is constantly attempting to find out if there are patients who haven't shown extreme symptoms. But they could not do it in the height of the epidemic, while health workers are trying to keep the victims alive and trying to safely bury the bodies of those who died.

However, in the village of Sukudu in the Kono District, Dr. Richardson collected blood samples from 187 individuals who have been quarantined after they shared latrines with known Ebola patients. At the same time, they also tested the blood of 132 people who had not been near Ebola patients.

Results shows that there are 14 individuals with antibodies to Ebola, infected with the virus, and twelve of the 14 said that they did not remember ever having had a fever or being sick.

"Our data suggest that a significant portion of Ebola transmission events may have gone undetected during the epidemic." the team reported in their findings.

Also, the virus is known to linger in the semen of male survivors, who can infect their sexual partners months after they have recovered.

"We expect to find more undocumented survivors, so we can begin to answer the question of what was the true burden of the disease." Dr. Richardson said in a statement as the team look for many places to get an idea of how many Ebola survivors escaped illness.

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