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A nurse was recently reported to have survived
the Ebola virus disease, and many have begun
to wonder how she was able to get through the
life threatening impact of the deadly Ebola
virus.

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The nurse has been discharged from the
isolation centre at the Mainland Hospital in
Lagos, while reports say that some more
patients who are undergoing treatment at the
centre may be discharged this week .
Statistics and precedence show that 60-90 per
cent of people who get infected with the Ebola
virus go on to die, while some people tend to
recover from the infection.
Derek Gatherer, a Bioinformatics researcher at
Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, who
has experience in the study of viral genetics and
evolution shared his opinion on what led to the
survival of the infected victims.
He said, “when a person becomes infected with
Ebola, the virus depletes the body’s immune
cells, which defend against infection. In
particular, the Ebola virus depletes immune cells
called CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes, which are
crucial to the function of the immune system”,
Gatherer noted, arguing that “if a person’s
immune system can stand up to this initial
attack — meaning their immune cells are not as
depleted in the first stages of infection — then
they are more likely to survive the disease.”
“The patients that survive it best are the ones
who don’t get such a bad immune deficiency.
But if the body is not able to fend off this
attack, then the immune system becomes less
able to regulate itself.”
Another determinant of surviving Ebola is when
a patient has a strong immune system, which is
in place of a gene called human leukocyte
antigen-B, which makes a protein that is
important in the immune system. A 2007 study
found that people with certain versions of this
gene, called B07 and B14, were more likely to
survive Ebola, while people with other versions,
called B67 and B15, were more likely to die.
Some people may also be resistant to Ebola
infection entirely, if they have a mutation in a
gene called NPC1. Studies show that, when
researchers take cells from people with the
NPC1 mutation and try to infect them with Ebola
in a laboratory dish, these cells are resistant to
the virus.
Gatherer added that in European populations,
about 1 in 300 to 1 in 400 people has this
mutation, He said, “But in some populations,
this mutation is more common: in Nova Scotia,
between 10 and 26 per cent of people have this
mutation. But the frequency of this mutation in
African populations is not known.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says
the death toll has risen to 1,145.

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