Early detection of Ebola virus disease may be closer to reality

Ebola virus disease might soon become possible for early detection as suggested by researchers.

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Nov 14, 2014, 00:39 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

Boston: Ebola virus disease might soon become possible for early detection as suggested by researchers.

Currently, tests for the deadly Ebola virus cannot identify the disease until after people show symptoms, but a new study has found potential markers of similar diseases in monkeys.

In the study, researchers infected monkeys with either Marburg virus or Lassa virus, which are similar to Ebola.

When attempted to detect the early signs of the infections, they found gene expression “signatures” that were distinct enough to distinguish Marburg virus infection from Lassa virus infection, before the animals showed any symptoms of either disease. The results suggests that it may be possible to test for the viruses much earlier.

“It looks like there are some very early and distinct ways in which the immune system is responding to different diseases,” said study researcher John Connor, an associate professor of microbiology at Boston University School of Medicine.

“That could be an important way of trying to find people who are infected before they show overt symptoms,” Connor was quoted as saying to Live Science.

However, researchers said the findings are only preliminary and further research is needed to find out whether the method can be used for a practical early detection test for Ebola virus in humans.

The study was published in the November 6 journal BMC Genomics.

Researchers hope their study will help in the development of better diagnostics, especially in the early stages of disease, thereby preventing the deadly virus from spreading.