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|Thomas W. Geisbert|
The Ebola virus blocks the immune response of the body for later dismantle the entire vascular system. It ends up causing internal bleeding, a drop in blood pressure, and finally a multi-organ failure that leads to death.
How does the Ebola virus work?
- When the Ebola virus enters the blood, it infects the cells of the immune system that are responsible for the body's first defense against infection (dendritic cells), and prevents the body from producing antibodies to fight the virus.
- Once the body is unprotected, the virus begins to replicate, grow rapidly out of control, and infect multiple organs.
- They infect other cells of the immune system called macrophages that begin to release proteins that activate clotting. This causes small clots to form in the blood vessels, thus reducing the blood supply to the organs.
Infected macrophages also produce signals related to inflammation (cytokines) and nitric oxide, which damage the lining of blood vessels, making them more permeable and causing blood to leak (one of the main symptoms of infection).
- The virus damages cells in the intestinal tract, causing severe diarrhea that rapidly dehydrates patients.
- The loss of blood eventually triggers kidney and liver failure.
- Blood pressure drops to dangerous levels.
- Patients die of shock and multi-organ failure.
How is Ebola spread in the body?What is the pathogenesis of the virus?
The Ebola virus is capable of infecting a wide range of cell types.
In the initial stages of infection, the virus prefers to replicate in cells of the immune system such as monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells. These cells appear to play a fundamental role in the spread of the virus since they spread the virus to the lymph nodes close to the place where the initial infection occurred.
Then from the lymph nodes, through the lymphatic system, they reach the liver and spleen, and from there through the blood they migrate out of the spleen and the lymph nodes to other tissues, infecting the rest of the organs.
Related Reading: Why is the Ebola Virus So Deadly?
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