Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Did you know? No vaccines for Ebola!

05 August 2014, 14:34

Abuja - In the four decades since the Ebola virus was first identified in Africa, treatment hasn't changed much. There are no licensed drugs or vaccines for the deadly disease.

Some are being developed, but none have been rigorously tested in humans. One experimental treatment, though, was tried this week in an American aid worker sick with Ebola, according to the US-based group that she works for in Liberia.

Also read: Ebola: Nigerian doctor infected!

Without a specific treatment, doctors and nurses focus on easing the disease's symptoms – fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhoea – and on keeping patients hydrated and comfortable.

The outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has sickened more than 1,300 people and more than 700 have died since March.

But why so little progress?

For one thing, the Ebola virus is hard to work with. The virus doesn't grow well in petri dishes and experiments can only be done in the relatively few labs with the highest security measures.

And while Ebola is lethal, it's rare. Outbreaks are unpredictable, giving doctors few chances to test new treatments. While the current epidemic is the largest recorded, the number of people sickened by Ebola is small compared to the number killed by other diseases like malaria or dengue.

Also read: TB Joshua: These foreigners not welcome!

Much of the funding for Ebola research is from governments that worry about the virus being used in a bioterror attack.

"It's not economically viable for any company to do this kind of research because they have stockholders to think about," said Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading in Britain.

What's in the pipeline?

There are about a half dozen Ebola drugs and vaccines in development, several of which have received funding from the US One drug developed by the US Army has shown promising results when tested in monkeys.

"We think this may work because of the animal models but until you do the studies in humans, you just don't know," said Fred Hayden, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, who was not involved in the research.

While animal studies for vaccine candidates have been encouraging, it's unclear what dose humans would need.

Also read: Three others showing Ebola symptoms

A Canadian company, Tekmira, has a $140 million contract with the US government to develop an Ebola vaccine. An early test of the shot in healthy humans was stopped recently after the Food and Drug Administration asked for more safety information.

Should experimental drugs be used?

Scientists are split on whether or not it is a good idea to try experimental drugs and vaccines before they are approved but the prospect is being informally discussed.

"Given the prolonged and unprecedented nature of the epidemic, we need to carefully consider this," said Dr. Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of Ebola in 1976 and director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The World Health Organisation has no plans to facilitate any clinical trials during this outbreak, spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

Also read: We can stop Ebola!

Other experts say it's unethical to use treatments or vaccines that haven't been properly tested, and warn the results could be disastrous.

"None of these drugs or vaccines are ready to be used in humans from a legal point of view," said Dr. Heinz Feldmann, chief of virology at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It would be impossible to vaccinate or treat everyone in the region but if any tests do proceed, they would probably be focused on those at highest risk: health care workers.

The American woman who got the experimental drug in Liberia worked at a hospital where Ebola patients were treated. It's not known what kind of treatment she received.

If health care workers are treated, "We will have to explain why some people are getting the vaccine and others are not," Feldmann said, adding there are still vast areas of West African communities suspicious of Western aid workers and their treatments. "At the moment, it doesn't even look like the local population wants it."

- Health24

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.


What causes cellulite?

21 October 2016, 13:23

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Mudavadi given permission to join...

Musalia Mudavadi has been ghranted permission by his party to join the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
EACC officers raid Deputy Governo...

EACC officers raided the home of a Deputy Governor as theft case continues in court. Read more...