Co-Infection with Malaria Parasites Can Result in Higher Chances of Surviving Ebola


A new study conducted by an Ebola diagnostic laboratory in Liberia has found that there is a connection between the survival of individuals with Ebola and co-infection with Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria.

An Ebola diagnostic laboratory in Liberia has come up with data collected from 2014 to 2015, that suggests that individuals infected with Ebola were 20% more likely to survive if they were co-infected with Plasmodium parasites, parasites that cause malaria, according to a press release issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

According to the study recently published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, and led by NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), increased survival rates of individuals infected with Ebola could be linked to an increased number of Plasmodium parasites.

The NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established a diagnostic laboratory in Liberia where researchers tested blood samples from individuals who thought that they might be infected with Ebola. The scientists tested 1,868 blood samples from these individuals who had gone to Monrovia’s ELWA3 Ebola Treatment Unit for treatment. A total of 1,182 samples were confirmed to contain the Ebola virus and 956 of those samples were tested for the presence of Plasmodium parasites. Of the 956 samples, 185 samples tested positive for the parasite. Furthermore, 58% of the individuals who were co-infected survived whereas 46% of individuals infected solely by the Ebola virus survived. Additionally, 83% of the individuals with the highest level of Plasmodium parasites survived, according to the press release.

The researchers stressed that during the Ebola outbreak, drugs to fight malaria were routinely administered to all individuals that went to the Treatment Unit, and thus, they have no bearing on the study’s results. It is also noted within the press release that anti-malaria drugs administered to laboratory mice infected with Ebola did not impact their survival in other experiments that were conducted within the United States.

According to the CDC, Ebola is both a rare and deadly disease that can be transmitted through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, infected objects, infected fruit bats or primates, and contact with semen from a male who has recovered from the disease. The largest Ebola outbreak in history occurred in 2014 in West Africa. As of April 13, 2016, The World Health Organization (WHO), in accordance with the CDC, reported that there have been 28,652 confirmed cases of Ebola and 11,325 deaths from the disease.

The researchers are now looking for an explanation for how co-infection of the Ebola virus and Plasmodium parasites resulted in increased survival among infected individuals. According to the press release, “If a connection is found, they say it might improve understanding of disease caused by Ebola and open possibilities for developing new treatments.”

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