Surviving Ebola Depends on Your Genes

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Ebola is considered one of the deadliest diseases with approximately half of the infected people in the current West African outbreak dying from the severe symptoms. At the same time, most of the patients treated in the U.S. recovered, possibly due to the better hospital conditions. But a new study suggests that the outcome may actually depend on your genes rather than on drugs and healthcare.

Scientists say that Ebola may not be a deadly disease to everyone after they conducted a mice study which showed that genetic variations actually control how patients are affected by the symptoms. Researchers from the universities in North Carolina and Washington and the National Institute of Health in Montana, U.S., infected genetically diverse mice with the same species of the Ebola virus, which is responsible for the current epidemic in West Africa. In the beginning all mice lost weight, but within two weeks, one in five regained that weight and showed no symptoms. 70 percent of the lab animals became ill and around 40 percent of them developed blood and liver problems, which can be seen as equivalent to the hemorrhagic fever in some of the human patients.

The fact that some of the mice turned out to be resistant to the infection shows that genetic variations play a significant role in the way the body reacts to the virus. The findings, published in the journal Science on Friday, indicate that the patient’s genes influence the infection outcome as it is with a range of viruses such as norovirus and HIV. Experts also believe that genes play a role in our susceptibility to the Ebola infection.

According to official data the Ebola death toll stands at 4,922, but doctors are almost certain that the actual number is way larger than 5,000. The total number of infections has reached at least 13,703 worldwide, the World health Organization says.

The study authors claim that the people who have survived during the current outbreak in several West African countries may simply have had natural immunity. This, according to scientists, may be a groundbreaking discovery that will change the future Ebola treatment and prevention.

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