Several experimental treatments for Ebola are currently available and although none have been officially tested and approved several promising results have been observed.
By Chandres (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
An experimental anti-viral drug that has shown some initial potential for the treatment of Ebola. The drug is currently in phase 3 human trials for the treatment of cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, and smallpox. An urgent authorization has been provided by the FDA for testing as a treatment for Ebola. The drug was tested with the first American case of Ebola. The patient died 4 days after receiving the drug.
Traditionally used as a treatment for HIV and Hepatitis B, it acts as a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor. The drug was tested by Dr. Gobee Logan in Liberia as an off label treatment for Ebola. The doctor claims significant improvement in the survival chance of patients upon receiving the medication. No official experiments have been conducted to confirm the efficacy of treatment and fears have been raised around the potential damage to the liver of a patient.
This drug has been placed on a suspended hold after phase one clinical trials resulted in flu like symptoms among test subjects. The drug is a combination of Small interfering RNAs. Three of the seven proteins present in the Ebola virus are targeted by the drug. Experimental administration of the drug is permitted in patients already infected with Ebola however healthy individuals may not receive the treatment at this time.
ZMapp is notably the best known potential Ebola treatment having been administered to several patients who survived Ebola infection. The drug is in limited supply as it is grown in a genetically modified tobacco plant and cannot be synthesized in a laboratory. In one example of testing 3 Liberians received the drug with two surviving. Supply of the medication is currently exhausted according to the manufacturer however several governments around the world have limited supplies of the drug. ZMapp contains neutralizing antibodies that allegedly provide passive immunity to the Ebola Virus.
The pet dog of the Spanish Nurse who contracted Ebola from a missionary will be put down. The local government reached the decision due to the fact that pets are able to carry Ebola. They had to obtain a court order to do so because the family objected to the decision of the local government. The decision was likely influenced by a study that was conducted by Allela, L et al. for the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville in Gabon. The study proved that dogs could carry the virus and that “putative infection is asymptomatic”. In August this year Liberian Media also reported that dogs were eating infected corpses that had not been buried raising fears in communities that the virus would spread more quickly.
Meanwhile, the nurse is still receiving treatment and her husband is still in isolation. Two other patients were isolated earlier today but one has already tested negative. The European Health Care System is under pressure to instill confidence after a few blunders with the first Ebola patient in the United States.
President Barack Obama said in a Press Conference “we have learnt lessons” and reiterated the United States’ “World Class Health System”. The United States focused on key points of spreading the word about necessary protocols which were shown off in a potential case in Cobb County last week. The drastic improvement in response secured the reputation of the United States as having one of the best Health Care systems in the world.
Meanwhile in Norway a MSF worker has arrived home for treatment. Local Norwegian Media are reporting that the patient will receive the last dose of the experimental drug ZMapp. Yesterday the CDC Director in the United States announced to Anderson Cooper on CNN that ZMapp supply had run out. Questions are now sure to arise around why the United States did not secure the final dose for Thomas Duncan, and why it went to the Norweigen instead. The dose of ZMapp is currently in Canada and will be sent to Norway soon. Duncan is believed to be on the experimental drug Brincidofovir which is manufactured by Chimerix.
Information on the potential of animals to carry the virus can be found on the CDC’s website.
UPDATE: The Dog has been put down (8 October 2014).
Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who was the first case of Ebola diagnosed on American soil is reportedly receiving the experimental drug, Brincidofovir. The drug is being developed by Chimerix and shows activity against herpes simplex viruses, adenoviruses and has shown some results against Ebola in preliminary trials. The World Health Organisation a while ago cleared the way for experimental drugs to be used against Ebola given the seriousness of the virus. The use of the drug is welcomed in light of the criticism that surfaced related to the handling of his case by the CDC and Texas Health Officials.
Meanwhile, a Spanish nurse has contracted the virus from a patient who was flown to Madrid to receive treatment. Norway is also in the process of repatriating a citizen who was working for Doctors without Borders but assured the public that all necessary protocols will be taken. The public has been urged to remain calm by many governments around the world concerned that unnecessary fear-mongering could lead to unrest. Many airlines around the world have already cut the amount of flights they offer to the affected countries and governments are concerned that calls to close borders could become louder and mainstream.
The experimental drug offers a ray of light since ZMapp supplies became limited. Currently there is no vaccine available but GlaxoKlineSmith in partnership with the NIAID, and Newlink in partnership with the Department of Defense are the two front-runners in the research race. Duncan’s infection led to a spate of contacts and numerous people have been placed in isolation since. The European Health Care System will now be placed under the same scrutiny as that of the US since the initial results confirmed the Nurse’s infection. The Spanish Health Ministry is expected to hold a Press Conference later today.
In the midst of the largest outbreak of hemorrhagic fever resulting from the Ebola virus efforts to find a vaccine have been accelerated dramatically in the hope that a viable one can be found. There are two potential vaccines being testing at the moment with ongoing human trials. The real question is how quickly these vaccines can be produced and distributed if the trials prove successful.
By Photo Credit: James Gathany Content Providers(s): CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The first and most notable is in development in partnership between the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and GlaxoKlineSmith. The group announced late August 2014 that they would be expediting their efforts with clinical trials beginning shortly thereafter. The vaccine has made progress to date but requires careful testing to ensure its safety and effectiveness in humans. Newlink, in partnership with the Department of Defense, has been working on a vaccine and several other companies are also currently researching therapeutic drugs.
To date no vaccines, drugs or treatments have received approval for the treatment of Ebola. Several experimental treatments have been used in the recent outbreak with varying results and far too little data has been gathered to advocate their efficacy. ZMapp has garnered significant interest as a treatment in the United States but no formal studies have been completed.
The CDC estimates that at least 70% of Ebola cases would need to be isolated to prevent further spread of the virus. Reports that Liberia and Sierra Leone have been overwhelmed by Ebola and are unable to effectively isolate patients could result in less than 70% of cases being quarantined. If Ebola continues to spread without restraint a vaccine or drug based cure may be the only way to prevent a global pandemic.