Immunopathology of highly virulent pathogens: insights from Ebola virus

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Ebola virus is a highly virulent pathogen capable of inducing a frequently lethal hemorrhagic fever syndrome. Accumulating evidence indicates that the virus actively subverts both innate and adaptive immune responses and triggers harmful inflammatory responses as it inflicts direct tissue damage. The host immune system is ultimately overwhelmed by a combination of inflammatory factors and virus-induced cell damage, particularly in the liver and vasculature, often leading to death from septic shock. We summarize the mechanisms of immune dysregulation and virus-mediated cell damage in Ebola virus–infected patients. Future approaches to prevention and treatment of infection will be guided by answers to unresolved questions about interspecies transmission, molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis, and protective adaptive and innate immune responses to Ebola virus.

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Figure 1: Infection, spread and target cell destruction by Ebola virus.


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We thank M. Cichanowski, A. Tislerics and T. Suhana for help with manuscript preparation and submission.

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Correspondence to Gary J Nabel.

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