Ebola virus persistence was examined in body fluids from 12 convalescent patients
by virus isolation and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) during
the 1995 Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Kikwit, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Virus RNA could be detected for up to 33 days in vaginal, rectal, and conjunctival
swabs of 1 patient and up to 101 days in the seminal fluid of 4 patients. Infectious
virus was detected in 1 seminal fluid sample obtained 82 days after disease onset.
Sequence analysis of an RT-PCR fragment of the most variable region of the glycoprotein
gene amplified from 9 patients revealed no nucleotide changes. The patient samples
were selected so that they would include some from a suspected line of transmission
with at least three human-to-human passages, some from 5 survivors and 4 deceased
patients, and 2 from patients who provided multiple samples through convalescence.
There was no evidence of different virus variants cocirculating during the outbreak
or of genetic variation accumulating during human-to-human passage or during prolonged
persistence in individual patients.