Implementation of a study to examine the persistence of Ebola virus in the body fluids of Ebola virus disease survivors in Sierra Leone: Methodology and lessons learned
by Gibrilla Fadlu Deen, Suzanna L. R. McDonald, Jaclyn E. Marrinan, Foday R. Sesay, Elizabeth Ervin, Anna E. Thorson, Wenbo Xu, Ute Ströher, Patricia Ongpin, Neetu Abad, Archchun Ariyarajah, Tasneem Malik, Hongtu Liu, Christine Ross, Kara N. Durski, Philippe Gaillard, Oliver Morgan, Pierre Formenty, Barbara Knust, Nathalie Broutet, Foday Sahr, on behalf of the Sierra Leone Ebola Virus Persistence Study GroupBackground
The 2013–2016 West African Ebola virus disease epidemic was unprecedented in terms of the number of cases and survivors. Prior to this epidemic there was limited data available on the persistence of Ebola virus in survivors’ body fluids and the potential risk of transmission, including sexual transmission.Methodology/Principal findings
Given the urgent need to determine the persistence of Ebola virus in survivors’ body fluids, an observational cohort study was designed and implemented during the epidemic response operation in Sierra Leone. This publication describes study implementation methodology and the key lessons learned. Challenges encountered during implementation included unforeseen duration of follow-up, complexity of interpreting and communicating laboratory results to survivors, and the urgency of translating research findings into public health practice. Strong community engagement helped rapidly implement the study during the epidemic. The study was conducted in two phases. The first phase was initiated within five months of initial protocol discussions and assessed persistence of Ebola virus in semen of 100 adult men. The second phase assessed the persistence of virus in multiple body fluids (semen or vaginal fluid, menstrual blood, breast milk, and urine, rectal fluid, sweat, saliva, tears), of 120 men and 120 women.Conclusion/Significance
Data from this study informed national and global guidelines in real time and demonstrated the need to implement semen testing programs among Ebola virus disease survivors. The lessons learned and study tools developed accelerated the implementation of such programs in Ebola virus disease affected countries, and also informed studies examining persistence of Zika virus. Research is a vital component of the public health response to an epidemic of a poorly characterized disease. Adequate resources should be rapidly made available to answer critical research questions, in order to better inform response efforts.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article
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