Early transmission and case fatality of Ebola virus at the index site of the 2013–16 west African Ebola outbreak: a cross-sectional seroprevalence survey

Joseph W.S. Timothy*, Yper Hall, Joseph Akoi-Boré, Boubacar Diallo, Thomas R.W. Tipton, Hilary Bower, Thomas Strecker, Judith R. Glynn, Miles Carroll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: To date, epidemiological studies at the index site of the 2013–16 west African Ebola outbreak in Meliandou, Guinea, have been restricted in their scope. We aimed to determine the occurrence of previously undocumented Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases and infections, and to reconstruct transmission events. Methods: This cross-sectional seroprevalence survey of the adult population of Meliandou used a highly specific oral fluid test and detailed interviews of all households in the village and key informants. Each household was interviewed, with all members prompted to describe the events of the outbreak, any illness within the household, and possible contact with suspected cases. Information for deceased individuals was provided by relatives living in the same household. Symptoms were based on Ebola virus Makona variant EVD case definitions (focusing on fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea). For antibody testing, we used an Ebola virus glycoprotein IgG capture enzyme immunoassay developed from a previously validated assay. A maximum exposure level was assigned to every participant using a predetermined scale. We used a generalised linear model (logit function) to estimate odds ratios for the association of sociodemographic variables and exposure level with Ebola virus infection. We adjusted estimates for age and maximum exposure, as appropriate. Findings: Between June 22, and July 9, 2017, we enrolled 237 participants from 27 households in Meliandou. Two households refused to participate and one was absent. All adults in participating households who were present for the interview provided an oral fluid swab for testing, of which 224 were suitable for analysis. In addition to the 11 EVD deaths described previously, on the basis of clinical description and oral fluid testing, we found two probable EVD deaths and eight previously unrecognised anti-Ebola virus IgG-positive survivors, including one who had mild symptoms and one who was asymptomatic, resulting in a case fatality of 55·6% (95% CI 30·8–78·5) for adults. Health-care work (adjusted odds ratio 6·64, 1·54–28·56; p=0·001) and level of exposure (odds ratio adjusted for linear trend across five levels 2·79, 1·59–4·883; p<0·0001) were independent risk factors for infection. Interpretation: Ebola virus infection was more widespread in this spillover population than previously recognised (21 vs 11 cases). We show the first serological evidence of survivors in this population (eight anti-Ebola virus IgG seropositive) and report a case fatality lower than previously reported (55·6% vs 100% in adults). These data show the high community coverage achievable by using a non-invasive test and, by accurately documenting the beginnings of the west African Ebola virus outbreak, reveal important insight into transmission dynamics and risk factors that underpin Ebola virus spillover events. Funding: US Food and Drug Administration, Wellcome Trust, and German Research Council.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-438
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet Infectious Diseases
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MWC reports grants from the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Union, and WHO. MWC also reports a pending patent for ovine polyclonal antibody therapy for EVD, filed in collaboration with Micropharm. All other authors declare no competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 World Health Organization


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