Characteristics of Ebola Virus Disease Survivor Blood and Semen in Liberia: Serology and Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR)

Aaron Kofman, Susanne Linderman, Kaihong Su, Lawrence J. Purpura, Elizabeth Ervin, Shelley Brown, Maria Morales-Betoulle, James Graziano, Deborah L. Cannon, John D. Klena, Rodel Desamu-Thorpe, John Fankhauser, Romeo Orone, Soka Moses, Uriah Glaybo, Moses Massaquoi, Tolbert Nyenswah, Stuart T. Nichol, Jomah Kollie, Armah KiawuEdna Freeman, Giovanni Giah, Henry Tony, Mylene Faikai, Mary Jawara, Kuku Kamara, Samuel Kamara, Benjamin Flowers, Kromah Mohammed, David Chiriboga, Desmond E. Williams, Steven H. Hinrichs, Rafi Ahmed, Benjamin Vonhm, Pierre E. Rollin, Mary J. Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Ebola virus (EBOV), species Zaire ebolavirus, may persist in the semen of male survivors of Ebola virus disease (EVD). We conducted a study of male survivors of the 2014-2016 EVD outbreak in Liberia and evaluated their immune responses to EBOV. We report here findings from the serologic testing of blood for EBOV-specific antibodies, molecular testing for EBOV in blood and semen, and serologic testing of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in a subset of study participants. Methods: We tested for EBOV RNA in blood by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR), and for anti-EBOV-specific immunoglobulin M (IgM) and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for 126 study participants. We performed PBMC analysis on a subgroup of 26 IgG-negative participants. Results: All 126 participants tested negative for EBOV RNA in blood by qRT-PCR. The blood of 26 participants tested negative for EBOV-specific IgG antibodies by ELISA. PBMCs were collected from 23/26 EBOV IgG-negative participants. Of these, 1/23 participants had PBMCs that produced anti-EBOV-specific IgG antibodies upon stimulation with EBOV-specific glycoprotein (GP) and nucleoprotein (NP) antigens. Conclusions: The blood of EVD survivors, collected when they did not have symptoms meeting the case definition for acute or relapsed EVD, is unlikely to pose a risk for EBOV transmission. We identified 1 IgM/IgG negative participant who had PBMCs that produced anti-EBOV-specific antibodies upon stimulation. Immunogenicity following acute EBOV infection may exist along a spectrum, and absence of antibody response should not be exclusionary in determining an individual's status as a survivor of EVD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E3641-E3646
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021


  • Ebola survivors
  • immunology
  • semen persistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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