Analysis of an Ebola virus disease survivor whose host and viral markers were predictive of death indicates the effectiveness of medical countermeasures and supportive care


Bosworth, Andrew Rickett, Natasha Y. Dong, Xiaofeng Ng, Lisa F.P. García-Dorival, Isabel Matthews, David A. Fletcher, Tom Jacobs, Michael Thomson, Emma C. Carroll, Miles W. Hiscox, Julian A.


Background: Ebola virus disease (EVD) is an often-fatal infection where the effectiveness of medical countermeasures is uncertain. During the West African outbreak (2013–2016), several patients were treated with different types of anti-viral therapies including monoclonal antibody-based cocktails that had the potential to neutralise Ebola virus (EBOV). However, at the time, the efficacy of these therapies was uncertain. Given the scale of the outbreak, several clinical phenotypes came to the forefront including the ability of the same virus to cause recrudescence in the same patient—perhaps through persisting in immune privileged sites. Several key questions remained including establishing if monoclonal antibody therapy was effective in humans with severe EVD, whether virus escape mutants were selected during treatment, and what is the potential mechanism(s) of persistence. This was made possible through longitudinal samples taken from a UK patient with EVD. Methods: Several different sample types, plasma and cerebrospinal fluid, were collected and sequenced using Illumina-based RNAseq. Sequence reads were mapped both to EBOV and the human genome and differential gene expression analysis used to identify changes in the abundance of gene transcripts as infection progressed. Digital Cell Quantitation analysis was used to predict the immune phenotype in samples derived from blood. Results: The findings were compared to equivalent data from West African patients. The study found that both virus and host markers were predictive of a fatal outcome. This suggested that the extensive supportive care, and most likely the application of the medical countermeasure ZMab (a monoclonal antibody cocktail), contributed to survival of the UK patient. The switch from progression to a ‘fatal’ outcome to a ‘survival’ outcome could be seen in both the viral and host markers. The UK patient also suffered a recrudescence infection 10 months after the initial infection. Analysis of the sequencing data indicated that the virus entered a period of reduced or minimal replication, rather than other potential mechanisms of persistence—such as defective interfering genomes. Conclusions: The data showed that comprehensive supportive care and the application of medical countermeasures are worth pursuing despite an initial unfavourable prognosis.


Genome Medicine

Research Themes:

2. Diagnostic and Host Response

1. Patient Research for Public Health