Severe liver impairment is a well-known hallmark of Ebola virus disease (EVD). However, the role of hepatic involvement in EVD progression is understudied. Medical imaging in established animal models of EVD (e.g., nonhuman primates [NHPs]) can be a strong complement to traditional assays to better investigate this pathophysiological process in vivo and noninvasively. In this proof-of-concept study, we used longitudinal multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to characterize liver morphology and function in nine rhesus monkeys after exposure to Ebola virus (EBOV). Starting 5 days postexposure, MRI assessments of liver appearance, morphology, and size were consistently compatible with the presence of hepatic edema, inflammation, and congestion, leading to significant hepatomegaly at necropsy. MRI performed after injection of a hepatobiliary contrast agent demonstrated decreased liver signal on the day of euthanasia, suggesting progressive hepatocellular dysfunction and hepatic secretory impairment associated with EBOV infection. Importantly, MRI-assessed deterioration of biliary function was acute and progressed faster than changes in serum bilirubin concentrations. These findings suggest that longitudinal quantitative in vivo imaging may be a useful addition to standard biological assays to gain additional knowledge about organ pathophysiology in animal models of EVD. IMPORTANCE Severe liver impairment is a well-known hallmark of Ebola virus disease (EVD), but the contribution of hepatic pathophysiology to EVD progression is not fully understood. Noninvasive medical imaging of liver structure and function in well-established animal models of disease may shed light on this important aspect of EVD. In this proof-of-concept study, we used longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to characterize liver abnormalities and dysfunction in rhesus monkeys exposed to Ebola virus. The results indicate that in vivo MRI may be used as a noninvasive readout of organ pathophysiology in EVD and may be used in future animal studies to further characterize organ-specific damage of this condition, in addition to standard biological assays.
Keywords: Ebola virus; Ebola virus disease; MRI; animal models; filovirus; medical imaging; nonhuman primate; virus.