Académie royale de Médecine de Belgique

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Kevin Ariën (Institut de Médecine tropicale - VUB) - Vidéo et Résumé

Virology aspects and laboratory diagnosis

The Ebola virus was discovered at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium in 1976 during an outbreak in Yambuku, former Zaïre. Ebola virus has been endemic in Central Africa since 1976 and caused at least 25 recorded outbreaks prior to the 2013 outbreak in West Africa. The current outbreak is unprecedented in number of infected people, deaths and its geographic spread.

Ebola virus is an enveloped negative-stranded RNA virus that belongs to the family of the Filoviridae, which further consists of Marburg virus and Cueva virus. The most lethal Ebola virus is the Zaire strain, with case fatality rates (CFR) of up to 90%. Four more Ebola virus strains with varying CFRs have been identified: Sudan, Bundibugyo, Tai forest and Reston.

Ebola virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever in humans, non-human primates and a number of other animals. It is a zoonotic infection with fruits bats being the most likely animal reservoir. Although the life cycle may be more complicated and not yet completely elucidated, the transmission to humans most likely occurs through hunting, butchering and consumption of infected animals (bats, primates etc.). Human-to-human transmission occurs through direct physical contact with infected individuals or their body fluids.

The large international effort deployed in 2014 to help contain the West African epidemic has speeded up the development of vaccines, antiviral therapies and diagnostics. During my talk, I will focus on some of these developments, with special attention for the diagnostics field.