Ebola virus causes intestinal tract architectural disruption and bacterial invasion in non-human primates

Ronald B. Reisler, Xiankun Zeng, Christopher W. Schellhase, Jeremy J. Bearss, Travis K. Warren, John C. Trefry, George W. Christopher, Mark G. Kortepeter, Sina Bavari, Anthony P. Cardile*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In the 2014–2016 West Africa Ebola Virus (EBOV) outbreak, there was a significant concern raised about the potential for secondary bacterial infection originating from the gastrointestinal tract, which led to the empiric treatment of many patients with antibiotics. This retrospective pathology case series summarizes the gastrointestinal pathology observed in control animals in the rhesus EBOV-Kikwit intramuscular 1000 plaque forming unit infection model. All 31 Non-human primates (NHPs) exhibited lymphoid depletion of gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) but the severity and the specific location of the depletion varied. Mesenteric lymphoid depletion and necrosis were present in 87% (27/31) of NHPs. There was mucosal barrier disruption of the intestinal tract with mucosal necrosis and/or ulceration most notably in the duodenum (16%), cecum (16%), and colon (29%). In the intestinal tract, hemorrhage was noted most frequently in the duodenum (52%) and colon (45%). There were focal areas of bacterial submucosal invasion in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in 9/31 (29%) of NHPs. Only 2/31 (6%) had evidence of pancreatic necrosis. One NHP (3%) experienced jejunal intussusception which may have been directly related to EBOV. Immunofluorescence assays demonstrated EBOV antigen in CD68+ macrophage/monocytes and endothelial cells in areas of GI vascular injury or necrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number513
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Antibiotics
  • Bacterial translocation
  • Ebola virus
  • Hemorrhage
  • Intestinal tract
  • Kikwit
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Necrosis
  • Rhesus macaque


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