Serological evidence of Ebola virus exposure in dogs from affected communities in Liberia: A preliminary report

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Filoviruses such as Ebola virus (EBOV) cause outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers for which no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs are available. The 2014–2016 EBOV outbreak in West Africa infected approximately 30,000 people, killing more than 11,000 and affecting thousands more in areas still suffering from the effects of civil wars. Sierra Leone and Liberia reported EBOV cases in every county demonstrating the efficient spread of this highly contagious virus in the well-connected societies of West Africa. In communities, canines are often in contact with people while scavenging for food, which may include sickly bush animals or, as reported from the outbreak, EBOV infected human bodies and excrement. Therefore, dogs may serve as sentinel animals for seroprevalence studies of emerging infectious viruses. Further, due to their proximity to humans, they may have important One Health implications while offering specimens, which may be easier to obtain than human serum samples. Previous reports on detecting EBOV exposure in canines have been limited. Herein we describe a pilot project to detect IgG-responses directed against multiple filovirus and Lassa virus (LASV) antigens in dogs from EBOV affected communities in Liberia. We used a multiplex Luminex-based microsphere immunoassay (MIA) to detect dog IgG binding to recombinant filovirus antigens or LASV glycoprotein (GP) in serum from dogs that were old enough to be present during the EBOV outbreak. We identified 47 (73%) of 64 dog serum samples as potentially exposed to filoviruses and up to 100% of the dogs from some communities were found to have elevated levels of EBOV antigen-binding IgG titers. The multiplex MIA described in this study provides evidence for EBOV IgG antibodies present in dogs potentially exposed to the virus during the 2014–16 outbreak in Liberia. These data support the feasibility of canines as EBOV sentinels and provides evidence that seroprevalence studies in dogs can be conducted using suitable assays even under challenging field conditions. Further studies are warranted to collect data and to define the role canines may play in transmission or detection of emerging infectious diseases.




Haun, B. K., Kamara, V., Dweh, A. S., Garalde-Machida, K., Forkay, S. S. E., Takaaze, M., … Lehrer, A. T. (2019). Serological evidence of Ebola virus exposure in dogs from affected communities in Liberia: A preliminary report. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 13(7).

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