Survivors of the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa had lingering health effects of the disease. These patients had a much greater mortality in the first year after discharge, compared with the general population. Among those survivors who died, the majority appear to have expired because of renal failure, according to the results of an assessment the by the Guinean national survivors’ monitoring program.

An image of a decontamination procedure during the 2014 West African Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak. CDC/Athalia Christie

The Surveillance Active en Ceinture obtained data on 1,130 (89%) of survivors of Ebola virus disease who were discharged from Ebola treatment units in Guinea. Compared with the general Guinean population, survivors of Ebola virus showed a five times increased risk of mortality within a year of follow-up after discharge, according to a survey of patients’ medical records and patients’ relatives, reported researchers Mory Keita, MD, and colleagues.

After 1 year, the difference in mortality between Ebola survivors and the general population had disappeared, according to the study published online in the Lancet Infectious Diseases.

A total of 59 deaths were reported among the discharged survivors available for follow-up. Renal failure was the assumed cause in 37 (63%) of these patients based on a description of reported anuria. The exact date of death was unknown for 43 of the 59 deaths. Of the 16 initial survivors for whom an exact date of death was available, 5 died within a month of discharge from Ebola treatment units, an additional 3 died within 3 months of discharge, 4 died 3-12 months after discharge, and 4 died more than a year after discharge (up to 21 months).

Age and area of residence (urban vs. nonurban area) were independently and significantly associated with mortality, with patients of older age (55 years or greater) and those from nonurban areas being at greater risk. Patient sex was not associated with survival.

Those survivors who were hospitalized for 12 days or more had more than double the risk of death than did those hospitalized less than 12 days, which was a statistically significant association.

“Survivors’ monitoring programs should be strengthened and should not focus exclusively on testing of bodily fluids,” the authors advised. “Furthermore, our study provides preliminary evidence that survivors hospitalized for longer than 12 days with Ebola virus disease could be at particularly high risk of mortality and should be specifically targeted, and perhaps also evidence that renal function should be monitored,” Dr. Keita and colleagues concluded.

The study was funded by the World Health Organization, International Medical Corps, and the Guinean Red Cross. The authors reported that they had no conflicts

SOURCE: Keita M et al. Lancet Infect Dis 2019 Sept 4. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(19)30313-5.