Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Desperate Response to the West African Ebola Outbrake

     The Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 but it has reappeared several time over the course of the last four decades. The virus, which was originally introduced into the human population through zoonoses, later mutated into a blood born pathogen that could be transmitted through human bodily fluids. Since its inception into the human population there have been three major outbreaks of the Ebola virus in human history. The largest and most recent one appeared in 2014 in West Africa and since then has spread to countries such as: Italy, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The mutation of the EVD has resulted in a severe outbreak across borders and because of this it has quickly attracted the attention of the institutes like the World Health Organization. Containing the spread of the virus has become the leading concern among health officials and has prompted the production of new antiviral drugs. According to there are four drugs being studied, an antiviral and three monoclonal antibodies, which are being developed by DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research and the US National Institutes of Health. The experimental therapies will include the antiviral drug Remdesivir and three monoclonal antibodies: ZMapp, REGN and mAb 114. These four drugs will be used in clinical trials to see whether or not they will improve patient's chances of survival in the midst of this outbreak. Unlike most trials, this study is a little unorthodox in terms of controlled environments. The study has unique challenges such as monitoring the drugs in environments that contain violence, kidnappings and conflicts. The situation was put into perspective when STATnews quoted a WHO representative saying "I don’t think the world quite appreciates the challenge of the environment in which this is happening... People are being shot at, and it’s not just the occasional bit of gunfire" (Farrar, 2018). The environment in which these studies are being done is anything but auspicious but the situation is dire and health officials are desperate. Researchers and health officials expect to see results soon but in the meantime they will continue to monitor the progress of these experimental drugs in the hope of seeing a positive results.

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