Sexual transmission involved at end of Ebola epidemic

Some of the final cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone were transmitted via unconventional routes, such as semen and breastmilk. This is a finding of the largest analysis to date of the tail-end of the epidemic.

An international team of researchers, based in a temporary laboratory, used real-time genome sequencing to produce a detailed picture of the latter stages of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. 

Sierra Leone was the most widely affected of the three West African countries hit by the epidemic. Up to now, it has had 14,124 cases of Ebola and 3,956 deaths.

By mid-2015 cases had declined, but isolated cases of the disease continued to appear. These were after the known transmission chains had been extinguished.

Starting in mid-2015, researchers sequenced samples from all new cases emerging in Sierra Leone. This helped field workers to locate the sources of infection for some of the final cases in the country. 

Their work revealed that some people contracted Ebola through unconventional transmission chains. 

This supports a growing body of evidence that the Ebola virus can be present in bodily fluids, such as semen or breastmilk, and may persist beyond standard quarantine times.

Read more about the study results in our press release