According to new research, a specific cell within our retina, the light-sensitive component of our eyes responsible for sending visual information to our brain, appears to be particularly adept at housing Ebola and other infections.
Ebola, a highly infectious and deadly viral illness, was first observed in 1976 and has now affected tens of thousands of people and animals, mainly in Central Africa.
Following an infection with Ebola, inflammation of the eye, and we know that cells within the iris, at the front of the eye, as well as the retina, have the capacity to play a major role in uveitis and as host organisms, according to a study senior author. Professor Justine Smith, a senior author at Flinders University, believes.
What we didn''t know about the two was the most likely to cause in the case of Ebola.
Cells from human eyes donated by the SA Eye Bank were used to investigate the possibility of Ebola in iris and retinal pigment epithelial cells, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Virology and under the direction of Flinders University and CSIROs Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness.
Cells were infected with the Ebola virus, the Reston virus (a type of ebolavirus that does not cause disease in humans) or the Zika virus (another type of virus, but one that may even cause uveitis), while others were left uninfected for the duration of the experiment.
Despite both kinds of cells promising to allow the Ebola virus to replicate, it was the retinal cells that showed significantly higher levels of infection.
According to Professor Smith, similar results were also discovered when it comes to the Reston virus and the Zika virus.
Patients with Ebola eye disease have characteristic retinal scars, implying that the retinal pigment epithelium is involved in the disease, so this finding is consistent with what eye doctors are seeing in the clinic.
These retinal cells are effective at eating phagocytosis and they play an essential role in the visual cycle by recycling our photoreceptors, making it clear that these cells would be a receptive haven for Ebola as well as other viruses.
The researchers claim that the study demonstrates an important target cell for Ebola infection in the eye and suggests that these cells may be monitored during acute viral infection to identify patients at high risk of infection.
uveitis can, among others, lead to vision loss, so it''s important to find solutions to it as early as possible, enabling swift treatment, according to Professor Smith.