Eyes are the Perfect Shelter for Ebola and Other Viruses

A specific cell within our retina, the light-sensitive part of our eyes responsible for sending visual information to our brain, appears to be particularly good at housing Ebola and other viruses, new research published in the journal Frontiers in Virology has found.

A highly infectious and lethal viral disease, Ebola was first observed in 1976 and has since impacted thousands of humans and animals, primarily in Central Africa.

‘Ebola virus patients have characteristic retinal scars, suggesting the retinal pigment epithelium is involved in the disease, which shows they are the perfect host for Ebola and other viruses.’

Inflammation of the eye, known as uveitis, is very common following infection with Ebola and we know the cells within the iris, at the front of the eye, as well as the retina can play a major role in uveitis and act as hosts for microorganisms.

What Does Ebola Virus Do To Your Eyes?

However, what we didn’t know was which out of the two was most responsible in the case of Ebola. To find that, Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness used cells from human eyes donated from the SA Eye Bank to investigate the ability of iris and retinal pigment epithelial cells to be infected by Ebola.

Cells were infected with Ebola virus, Reston virus (a type of ebolavirus that does not cause disease in humans), or Zika virus (another type of virus, but one that also can cause uveitis), while some were left uninfected for the duration of the trial.


While both types of cells seemed to allow the Ebola virus to replicate, it was the retinal cells that showed much higher levels of infection. They also found similar results when looking at the cells infected with Reston virus and Zika virus.

These retinal cells are good at eating things – called phagocytosis – and they play an essential part in the visual cycle by recycling our photoreceptors, so it makes sense that these cells would be a receptive haven for Ebola, as well as other viruses.

Amongst other issues, including pain and blurred vision, uveitis can ultimately lead to vision loss, so it’s important we find ways to diagnose it as early as possible to enable swift treatment.

Source: Medindia


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