As BioNews Texas has previously reported, Ebola continues to strongly affect people in Guinea, West Africa, and virologists are concerned about the consequences of the recent and unprecedented epidemic, as well as effectively containing it. Ebola has already claimed more than 90 lives, and may have also reached north into the Sahel region. 127 total cases have been reported. In response to the growing epidemic, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) recently weighed in on the dangers of the virus, and how it might be stopped by public health officials.
“When I heard about the outbreak, my initial suspicion was that it could be the Ivory Coast species,” said Thomas Geisbert, an expert on haemorrhagic fevers at UTMB. Geisbert’s suspicion proved to be correct, and the problem is that this species of the virus has never been seen in West Africa before. “I am very concerned, because I think we still don’t know how the virus got into this region or the size of the boundaries of the affected area.”
Historically rooted in central Africa, Ebola is a deadly virus that replicates very quickly, before most people’s bodies can mount an attack. It disables the immune system, causing massive bleeding 7 to 10 days after infection, and it hampers the development of antibodies and T Cells that could attack the virus.
An opportunity for an Ebola cure
The recent outbreak, while a major health emergency, is also a rare opportunity for researchers to advance their pursuit of a cure. The Canadian company Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, for example, has been working on an approved treatment for the virus, while industry insiders are talking about using the as-yet-unlicensed anti-viral drug to help people from Guinea.
As BioNews Texas Contributing Editor Charles Moore recently reported, $28 million dollars in recent funding from the NIH was awarded to develop new treatment options, while Corgenix Medical Corporation recently moved to extend its viral hemorrhagic fever rapid test kit development to include the Ebola virus for West Africa.
In general, virologists are hopeful that an approved treatment is near.“The high case fatality rates and potential for deliberate misuse are some of the main driving forces for why the U.S. government is the main funding source. From a humanitarian perspective we hope that vaccines being supported by the U.S. government could and would eventually make their way to endemic areas,” Geisbert said.
In the past five years, scientists have worked with several experimental vaccines and treatments, which have been effective in other primates. While the researchers have yet to find a cure, they are still working to develop therapies that treat Ebola’s symptoms. The goal is to keep people’s immune systems strong enough so that they have a fighting chance of defeating the virus on their own.
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