An Ebola outbreak now occurring in Guinea was almost certainly started by someone who survived West Africa’s historic 2014-16 epidemic, harbored the virus for at least five years and then transmitted it via semen to a sex partner, researchers reported on Friday.
The finding, based on genetic sequencing of virus samples taken from patients in the current outbreak, shocked researchers. Until now, the longest the virus had been known to persist in a survivor was 500 days.
“It’s a stunner,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research, said in an interview. “This is an extraordinary phenomenon.”
The current outbreak in Guinea was first recognized in January and has infected at least 18 people and killed nine.