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Methanol Fixation, but not Giemsa Staining, Inactivates Ebola and Lassa Viruses in Peripheral Blood Smears Made on Plastic Microscope Slides

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  • 1 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana;
  • | 2 Division of Clinical Microbiology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University Health, Indianapolis, Indiana;
  • | 3 Division of Intramural Research, Laboratory of Virology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana

ABSTRACT

Diseases caused by many highly pathogenic viruses, including Ebola virus (EBOV) and Lassa virus (LASV), present with nonspecific signs and symptoms that overlap with common tropical diseases such as malaria. Initial diagnostic tests performed on patients under investigation for viral hemorrhagic fevers routinely include analysis of peripheral blood smears to detect and quantify Plasmodium species. In light of recent and ongoing Ebola virus disease and Lassa fever epidemics, clinical laboratories around the world require protocols for dealing with highly infectious specimens from patients with suspected or confirmed high-consequence diseases. Few validated protocols for safe analysis of peripheral blood smears are available, revealing a need for further research. In this study, we evaluated the performance of two plastic microscope slide types that offer safe alternatives to glass slides, determined the temporal parameters required to inactivate EBOV and LASV in thin blood smears by methanol fixation, and assessed the virucidal activity of Giemsa stain. Both types of plastic microscope slides performed optimally; there were no significant differences in blood cell morphology or tinctorial properties nor were differences noted in Plasmodium ovale morphology or staining, when compared with glass slides. For both EBOV and LASV, viable viruses were not detected in thin blood smears following fixation in absolute methanol for at least 2 minutes. By contrast, viable EBOV and LASV were recovered from all Giemsa-stained thick blood smears.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Ryan F. Relich, Division of Clinical Microbiology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University Health, 350 West 11th St., Rm. 6027E, Indianapolis, IN 46260. E-mail: rrelich@iupui.edu

Financial support: This work was supported by the Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH.

Authors’ addresses: Ryan F. Relich, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, and Division of Clinical Microbiology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Indiana University Health, Indianapolis, IN, E-mail: rrelich@iupui.edu. Heinz Feldmann and Elaine Haddock, Division of Intramural Research, Laboratory of Virology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, MT, E-mails: heinrich.feldmann@nih.gov and elaine.haddock@nih.gov.

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