Last October, Dr. Ian Crozier was released from Emory University Hospital after nearly losing his life to Ebola. Months later, he began to experience pain and fading vision in his left eye. Within a few days, his iris, which is normally blue, had turned green.

At The New York Times, Denise Grady has the details surrounding Crozier’s case:

His doctors were amazed. They had considered the possibility that the virus had invaded his eye, but they had not really expected to find it. Months had passed since Dr. Crozier became ill while working in an Ebola treatment ward in Sierra Leone as a volunteer for the World Health Organization. By the time he left Emory, his blood was Ebola-free. Although the virus may persist in semen for months, other body fluids were thought to be clear of it once a patient recovered. Almost nothing was known about the ability of Ebola to lurk inside the eye.

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Grady also reports on “post-Ebola syndrome,” a host of symptoms, experienced by Crozier and reported also by patients in West Africa, that include joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and hearing loss. “It is not clear how common, severe or persistent [these symptoms] are,” writes Grady. “There have even been reports of survivors left completely blind or deaf, but these accounts are anecdotal and unconfirmed.”

The astonishment of Crozier’s doctors, and our hazy understanding of the disease’s lingering effects, underscores just how little we know about Ebola. It highlights, also, the difficulty of studying infectious diseases in general, and violent, incurable, zoonotic ones, in particular. I’m reminded of the following passage from David Quammen’s Spillover (a passage written before the U.S. had ever had an Ebola patient):

Ebola virus is still an inscrutable bug in more ways than one, and Ebola virus disease is still a mystifying affliction as well as a ghastly, incurable one... “I mean, it’s awful,” [virologist Karl Johnson] stressed. “It really, really is.” He had seen it almost before anyone else, under especially mystifying conditions—in Zaire, 1976, before the virus even had a name. But the thing hasn’t changed, he said. “And frankly, everybody in the world is much too afraid of it, including the medical fraternity worldwide, to really want to try and study it.” To study its effect on a living, struggling human body, he meant. To do that, you would need the right combination of hospital facilities, BSL-4 facilities, dedicated and expert professionals, and circumstances. You couldn’t do it during the next outbreak at a mission clinic in an African village. You would need to bring Ebola virus into captivity—into a research situation, under highly controlled scrutiny—and not just in the form of frozen samples. You would need to study a raging infection inside somebody’s body.

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You can read the rest of Grady’s coverage here. See also her piece on how a viral infection goes about turning a blue eye green.


Contact the author at rtgonzalez@io9.com.

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