Emory University attracted national attention five years ago when it treated two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly and American aid worker Nancy Writebol,w ho contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia while working with the faith-based charity Samaritan’s Purse.

Emory takes research lead on Ebola’s affects on eyes

The Emory Eye Center will study and work on eye treatments for those who survive Ebola. About one in every three survivors develop uveitis, which can lead to vision impairment and blindness.

The National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health gave a team of researchers $3.2 million for the project. The  grant stems from prior work related to eye disease in Ebola survivors in the United States and Sierra Leone since the West African Ebola outbreak from 2014 to 2016.

Dr. Steven Yeh, the principal investigator of the grant, will be sharing work and information with a number of U.S. and international partners in the study. 

“Eye care is only one issue among many in Ebola survivors,” Dr. Jessica Shantha from the Emory Eye Care Center said. “However, prior studies have shown that over 30% of survivors may develop ocular complications. Uveitis and cataracts are two of those complications. Both tend to show clinical features differently in Ebola survivors than in other patients and often are much more difficult to treat.” 

Part of that treatment has included the design of specialized ophthalmic procedure rooms in Sierra Leone to safely test ocular fluid for Ebola before scheduling the patient’s surgery.

Yeh said, “Because of the potential that Ebola virus might remain in a patient’s ocular fluid, we want to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to protect the patient and their health provider.”  

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