This question already has an answer here:

Because Ebola takes over the immune system and uses it to replicate more and more of the virus, how does the body survive?

Is it a case of the virus being self-limiting and eventually just getting 'too big for its britches' so to speak? Or does the body somehow eventually start producing antibodies to fight it off?


marked as duplicate by anongoodnurse, AMR, The Last Word, fileunderwater, WYSIWYG Dec 25 '15 at 7:27

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ From your text and the tag "retrovirus", I am wondering whether you are confusing ebola and HIV? $\endgroup$ – YviDe Dec 21 '15 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Nope I wasn't mixing up the two, I know that Ebola attacks the dendritic cells, monocytes, and macrophages. But I forgot about the T-cells and how it doesn't do much with them, HIV attacks those. $\endgroup$ – Ryguy Dec 21 '15 at 20:49

While the ebola virus infects a lot of human cells, immune system cells it infects are mainly monocytes and macrophages. The cells in our body mainly responsible for adaptive immunity, T cells, are at least not completely infected:

Our data indicate that 20–30% of CD4 and CD8 T cells died during the course of infection1

That's a lot, but the ones that survive get activated and it's apparantly enough that between 80 and 10% of the infected (depending on the strain) can survive the infection. Little is known about the details of the immune reaction to ebola, but the immune system does get activated. The immune system even remains on "high alert" for quite some time after infection and recovery.

And the antibodies do stick around, at least for 10 years. Whether they confer immunity against all strains of ebola, we don't seem to know - ebola isn't very well-researched yet.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So, basically, if you can outlive the initial damage, you'll recover, no? That seems to be the gist of the treatment: keep them alive with fluids and, if necessary, blood. I remember a student nurse saved almost her entire family at home (not hospital) that way. $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Dec 21 '15 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse possibly? I think the morbid guideline I heard was that whoever isn't dead 7 days after onset of symptoms will probably make it. CDC says it's a mean of 7 days: cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/healthcare-us/preparing/clinicians.html with the dehydration being really horrible in the end $\endgroup$ – YviDe Dec 21 '15 at 15:33

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.