Authors: Alice Weatherston
A new study evaluating brain symptoms in the recent Ebola outbreak has revealed that Ebola survivors often still exhibit neurological symptoms more than six months following their initial infection. The preliminary results of the study, which is part of the larger Prevail III study, will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting (Vancouver, Canada, 15–21 April 2016).
The Prevail III study was set up to follow patients previously infected with the Ebola virus and their close contacts, which serve as controls, to collect natural history data of Ebola survivors. “While an end to the outbreak has been declared, these survivors are still struggling with long-term problems,” explained the current study’s author Lauren Bowen (NIH NINDS).
The research group teamed up with the ongoing PREVAIL III study to specifically investigate the presence or prevalence of possible long-term brain health problems for the more than 17,000 survivors of the infection.
The study included 82 Ebola survivors with an average age of 35 years; all assessed at least six months following the onset of their disease. At this stage most of the individuals exhibited some neurologic abnormality, with the most common ongoing problems manifesting as weakness, memory loss, headache, muscle pain, depression (including two suicidal patients) and visual hallucinations. These were also associated with abnormal eye movements, tremors and abnormal reflexes.
The study team are now in the process of evaluating the controls of the study to determine if the symptoms are Ebola-specific. Bowen concluded: “It is important for us to know how this virus may continue to affect the brain long term.”