Virologist Exposed to Ebola Removed From Isolation, Appears Healthy

Jocelyn is a staff writer for Science magazine.

The lab researcher in Germany who was accidentally exposed to the deadly Ebola virus 2 weeks ago remains healthy, according to virologist Stephan Günther of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, where the researcher pricked herself during an experiment. Günther has coordinated an international effort to save the researcher's life in case she became infected by giving her an experimental vaccine. In the past week or so, she has not developed a fever, and Ebola virus has not been detected in her blood. If she stays well, she will be released on 3 April, after the 21-day period for Ebola incubation ends.

Günther told ScienceInsider that there was one minor development last week: The patient developed slightly elevated levels of D-dimers, which are protein fragments that are a possible indication of a coagulation disorder and could be a sign of Ebola infection.

However, D-dimers can also indicate other disorders, such as a blood clot or coronary artery disease, and she has shown no other signs of illness. Günther and advisers briefly considered whether to give her an experimental anticoagulant drug called rNAPc2 but decided to hold off.

Because she has remained healthy, "the reason for this laboratory finding is most likely not Ebola," Günther says. She was moved back to an isolation unit as a precaution last week, but as of yesterday, she is in a regular hospital ward, according to Stefan Schmiedel, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf clinician overseeing her care. But it may not be possible to determine whether the researcher remained healthy because the vaccine worked or because she was never infected with the virus.

Posted in Europe, Health