Ebola’s capriciousness in kids

Anita McElroy, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Emory, and her colleagues at the CDC, led by Christina Spiropoulou, have been getting some attention for their biomarker research on Ebola virus infection. Sheri Fink from the New York Times highlighted their work in a Nov. 9 report on the infection’s capriciousness. Genetics may also play a role in surviving Ebola infection, as recent animal research has suggested.

McElroy’s team’s findings attracted notice because their results suggest that Ebola virus disease may affect children differently and thus, children may benefit from different treatment regimens than those for adults. The authors write that early intervention to prevent injury to the lining of blood vessels — using statins, possibly — might be a therapeutic strategy in pediatric patients.

The team analyzed samples obtained from patients involved in the Ebola virus disease outbreak (Sudan variety) in Uganda from 2000-2001. Until 2014, this was the largest Ebola virus disease outbreak on record. The samples were obtained between 0 and 15 days after the onset of symptoms. Researchers analyzed the amounts of 55 proteins and electrolytes present in the blood of patients from that outbreak, from 55 children and 161 adults, more than half of the cases known to investigators.

Another recent paper from McElroy, Spiropoulou and colleagues looked at the same outbreak and the same biomarkers, but did not examine pediatric-specific issues and the discussion instead focuses more on hemorrhage. Endothelial cells are a known target for the virus and their damage is thought to contribute to hemorrhage. Despite Ebola’s notoriety in causing a “viral hemorrhagic fever”, hemorrhage was actually seen in less than half of all documented cases in the Uganda outbreak. The authors also point out that so far, there has been little evidence that targeting blood clotting in Ebola virus disease would be helpful.

Posted on by Quinn Eastman in Immunology Leave a comment

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Quinn Eastman

Science Writer, Research Communications qeastma@emory.edu 404-727-7829 Office

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