Modeling Ebola virus transmission using ferrets

Marc Antoine de La Vega, Geoff Soule, Kaylie N. Tran, Kevin Tierney, Shihua He, Gary Wong, Xiangguo Qiu, Gary P. Kobinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ebola virus (EBOV) has been responsible for sporadic outbreaks in Central Africa since 1976 and has the potential of causing social disruption and public panic as illustrated by the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa. Transmission of EBOV has been described to occur via contact with infected bodily fluids, supported by data indicating that infectious EBOV could be cultured from blood, semen, saliva, urine, and breast milk. Parameters influencing transmission of EBOV are, however, largely undefined in part due to the lack of an established animal model to study mechanisms of pathogen spread. Here, we investigated EBOV transmissibility in male and female ferrets. After intranasal challenge, an infected animal was placed in direct contact with a naive ferret and in contact with another naive ferret (separated from the infected animal by a metal mesh) that served as the indirect-contact animal. All challenged animals, male direct contacts, and one male indirect contact developed disease and died. The remaining animals were not viremic and remained asymptomatic but developed EBOV-glycoprotein IgM and/or IgG specific antibodies- indicative of virus transmission. EBOV transmission via indirect contact was frequently observed in this model but resulted in less-severe disease compared to direct contact. Interestingly, these observations are consistent with the detection of specific antibodies in humans living in areas of EBOV endemicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00309-18
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal models
  • Ebola virus
  • Ferret
  • Filovirus
  • Transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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