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Ebola Virus Persistence in Ocular Tissues and Fluids (EVICT) Study: Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction and Cataract Surgery Outcomes of Ebola Survivors in Sierra Leone


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Shantha, J. G., J. G. Mattia, A. Goba, K. G. Barnes, F. K. Ebrahim, C. S. Kraft, B. R. Hayek, J. N. Hartnett, J. G. Shaffer, J. S. Schieffelin, J. D. Sandi, M. Momoh, S. Jalloh, D. S. Grant, K. Dierberg, J. Chang, S. Mishra, A. K. Chan, R. Fowler, T. O'Dempsey, E. Kaluma, T. Hendricks, R. Reiners, M. Reiners, L. A. Gess, O. Neill K, S. Kamara, A. Wurie, M. Mansaray, N. R. Acharya, W. J. Liu, S. Bavari, G. Palacios, M. Teshome, I. Crozier, P. E. Farmer, T. M. Uyeki, D. G. Bausch, R. F. Garry, M. J. Vandy, and S. Yeh. 2018. "Ebola Virus Persistence in Ocular Tissues and Fluids (EVICT) Study: Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction and Cataract Surgery Outcomes of Ebola Survivors in Sierra Leone." EBioMedicine 30:217-24.




Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors are at risk for uveitis during convalescence. Vision loss has been observed following uveitis due to cataracts. Since Ebola virus (EBOV) may persist in the ocular fluid of EVD survivors for an unknown duration, there are questions about the safety and feasibility of vision restorative cataract surgery in EVD survivors.


We conducted a cross-sectional study of EVD survivors anticipating cataract surgery and patients with active uveitis to evaluate EBOV RNA persistence in ocular fluid, as well as vision outcomes post cataract surgery. Patients with aqueous humor that tested negative for EBOV RNA were eligible to proceed with manual small incision cataract surgery (MSICS).


We screened 137 EVD survivors from June 2016 - August 2017 for enrolment. We enrolled 50 EVD survivors; 46 with visually significant cataract, 1 with a subluxated lens, 2 with active uveitis and 1 with a blind painful eye due to uveitis. The median age was 24.0years (IQR 17-35) and 35 patients (70%) were female. The median logMAR visual acuity (VA) was 3.0 (Snellen VA Hand motions; Interquartile Range, IQR: 1.2-3.0, Snellen VA 20/320 - Hand motions). All patients tested negative for EBOV RNA by RT-PCR in aqueous humor/vitreous fluid and conjunctiva at a median of 19months (IQR 18-20) from EVD diagnosis in Phase 1 of ocular fluid sampling and 34months (IQR 32-36) from EVD diagnosis in Phase 2 of ocular fluid sampling. Thirty-four patients underwent MSICS, with a preoperative median VA improvement from hand motions to 20/30 at three-month postoperative follow-up (P<0.001).


EBOV persistence by RT-PCR was not identified in ocular fluid or conjunctivae of fifty EVD survivors with ocular disease. Cataract surgery can be performed safely with vision restorative outcomes in patients who test negative for EBOV RNA in ocular fluid specimens. These findings impact the thousands of West African EVD survivors at-risk for ocular complications who may also require eye surgery during EVD convalescence.


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