MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Study: Ebola virus can survive in dead body for a week

National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists conducted a study to determine how long the Ebola virus could remain infectious in a body after death and found it to be durable, the NIH said this week.

The researchers sampled deceased Ebola-infected monkeys recently and discovered that the virus remained viable for at least seven days and non-infectious viral RNA survived for up to 10 weeks post-mortem.

The study's findings so far, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, supports the notion that Ebola transmission from deceased individuals may be possible for an extended period of time after death, which underscores the importance of health care workers using safe practices for handling corpses. The research also mentions how oral swabbing of bodies is a reliable and safer alternative to riskier procedures for obtaining diagnostic samples of body fluids.

As part of this study, scientists from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases tested samples from five deceased macaques used in Ebola virus studies and euthanized them after they began showing signs of the deadly disease. To assess the stability of the virus once the body was dead, the scientists placed the bodies in a chamber to mimic the poor environmental conditions in West Africa.

After the scientists sampled seven different body surfaces and removed tissue from four internal organs, they measured the amount of live Ebola virus and viral RNA present. They then compared test results at various times and came to the determination that the live virus was detectable in surface swabs up to seven days after death, in addition to being in the tissue samples up to three days after death. The viral RNA was detectable in numerous swab and tissue types for up to 10 weeks.

As a result, the scientists believe these results are probably consistent for gorillas and monkeys.

On a side note, the researchers actually designed the study in the first place to test dead animals found in the wild, but shifted the timing and focus to humans because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

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