PREDICT Success: Early detection of an Ebolavirus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Ebola in DRC

In August of 2014, PREDICT assisted in the early detection of an Ebolavirus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With many of the country’s resources out of the country to assist in the massive West African outbreak, the PREDICT team was called on to assist. 

It started on August 11, when a woman who had shown signs of hemorrhagic fever died of unknown causes in the village of Ikanamongo in Equateur Province. By August 18, nearby villages had reported 24 similar cases. A national response team went to the remote site and was able to deliver eight samples from individuals who had been in direct contact with the index case to the capital city of Kinshasa by August 22. 

The Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Unit at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) is the government lab under the Ministry of Health that normally conducts diagnostic testing in cases of suspected viral hemorrhagic fever in DRC. But key staff were in West Africa at the time responding to government requests to assist in the still-growing Ebola outbreak in that region.

Consequently, the deputy director of INRB requested that the PREDICT laboratory, hosted at INRB, conduct the diagnostic testing. Ebolavirus was confirmed in samples from the outbreak using PREDICT protocols on August 23.

Samples were sent to a commercial laboratory for sequencing, which confirmed that the outbreak in DRC was caused by the same species of Ebolavirus as the West Africa outbreak, but that it was not closely related. That suggested that the DRC outbreak was an independent spillover event. The PREDICT/INRB team made the sequence publicly available on September 15.

Based on the early results of the PREDICT/INRB laboratory test, the DRC government was able to enact disease control measures such as quarantine, dispatch of a mobile laboratory, and contact tracing, among other measures.  Consequently, the early assistance of the laboratory may have increased the likelihood of successful containment procedures. 

Ebolavirus outbreaks in humans often occur after contact with an infected animal. In this case, reports suggest the primary case in Ikanamongo butchered a wild animal of unknown species.