Interview with Colonel Arthur Anderson, M.D.

What motivated you to work with Ebola?

I saw many presentations by Nancy Jaax, Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling over the past several years at USAMRIID. In some of the talks Nancy showed tissue changes in the spleen and lymph nodes that intrigued me. It seemed to me that important structures involved in lymphocyte recirculation and homing were targets in the ebola infection.

At the time, I was preparing a review for Seminars in Immunology with Steve Shaw on how the fibroblastic reticular cells of lymphatic tissues are involved in conducting molecular signals across tissue to places where circulating leukocytes will see them. In addition, Bill Hall (another pathologist) had years ago given me a slide of lymph node stained for ebola antigen and the antigen was being expressed in the reticular cells that surround high endothelial venules. It struck me as interesting but how this might be applied to understanding pathogenesis had not become my objective until my interest in the fibroblastic reticular cell conduit was juxtaposed with seeing these pathological images.

This interest lead to collaboration with Kelly Davis, Tom Geisbert and others on a paper entitled "Pathology of Experimental Ebola Virus Infection in African Green Monkeys: Involvement Fibroblastic Reticular Cells. Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. 121:805-8191997.

Had you known what you know now about Ebola, would you still have been involved with it at the same level?

Yes. Viruses are very clever in the ways they borrow normal physiological systems for infection, persistence and spread. When ebola showed me that it "likes" cells that belong to an organ system that I hold expertise about, there was no further reason for me to not work with ebola.

What do you think of the media's coverage of the Ebola and Marburg outbreaks?

Ebola is a frightening disease. Fortunately, outbreaks occur infrequently and usually do not propagate beyond the initial contacts. I think the fear the disease creates is responsible for creating a barrier that prevents further spread. If it were not so quickly catastrophic in its course, more people would be exposed and it would spread more widely and rapidly. The media creates more fear, and this indirectly is protective because more people are informed of the risk than are actually at risk.

What do you think future research on Ebola should look at?

I think it is clear that ebola is very clever for latching onto essential physiological systems in its pathogenesis. It will take very sophisticated molecular techniques applied at the borders of virology, cell biology and immunology to uncover "factors" that can be exploited to select molecular targets for vaccine design and anti-viral drug development.