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Antibodies periodically wax and wane in survivors of Ebola
For those fortunate enough to have survived a deadly disease, a vital question remains: how long does their hard-earned immunity last? Tracking of antibodies in Ebola survivors reveals a surprising pattern.
The West African Ebola epidemic in 2013–16 was unprecedented in its size, affecting more than 28,000 people. A more recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that ended last June added more than 3,000 cases to this total. The scale of these outbreaks is devastating, but there is nevertheless a large pool of survivors. This offers a welcome chance to study the stability of anti-Ebola antibodies — an indication of whether the body’s immune system remembers the virus. Numerous groups have reported patients’ antibody concentrations during the acute phase of Ebola disease and immediately after, but few studies have measured these levels long after recovery. Writing in Nature, Adaken and colleagues1 address this knowledge gap.