Approaching Zero: How West Africa is Crushing the Ebola Epidemic

The West African Ebola outbreak is finally starting to approach manageable levels, after nearly 18 excruciating months and over 11,000 lost lives. Here’s what the current situation on the ground looks like and how the battle against Ebola finally might be won.

This is the largest and longest Ebola outbreak in human history. At its peak, there were 950 confirmed cases each week, prompting fears of a global pandemic. Officials have reported 28,421 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Of these, some 11,300 people have died — a fatality rate of 40%. A total of 881 healthcare workers have been infected; of those, 513 died.

The effects will be felt for years to come. The loss of so many medical personnel is expected to have downstream effects on the health system of affected West African countries, including a sharp rise in maternal mortality to the tune of an additional 4,022 deaths each year for the foreseeable future. Moreover, the ability of healthcare workers to deal with other major diseases, like Malaria and Lassa (another hemorrhagic fever), was severely curtailed during the epidemic.

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Ebola RNA Persistence in Semen of Ebola Virus Disease Survivors — Preliminary Report

LONDON — Doctors have found that Ebola can linger in some male survivors for up to nine months but aren’t sure if that means they might still be infectious, according to new research.

In a study of 93 men in Sierra Leone, scientists found the Ebola virus in semen samples from about half of them. The risk seemed to decline over time. Ebola was detected in all nine men tested at two to three months after their illness began but in only 11 of the 43 survivors tested at seven to nine months.

Link to Mashable

 

Link to NE Journal of Medicine Article

Ebola vaccine is ‘potential game-changer’

A vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has led to 100% protection and could transform the way Ebola is tackled, preliminary results suggest.

There were no proven drugs or vaccines against the virus at the start of the largest outbreak of Ebola in history, which began in Guinea in December 2013.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the findings, being published in the Lancet, could be a “game-changer”.

Experts said the results were “remarkable”.

This trial centred on the VSV-EBOV vaccine, which was started by the Public Health Agency of Canada and then developed by the pharmaceutical company Merck.

 

 

Full story at BBC News

Gene mutation in Ebola outbreak provides epidemiological insight

Sequencing genetic material from the blood of 179 Ebola patient blood samples has provided insights into the epidemiological and evolutionary course of the current Ebola epidemic. The analysis confirms the path that different viral lineages took through the human populations of West Africa. These findings are important because they can be used in conjunction with epidemiological data to retrospectively test the effectiveness of Ebola control measures.

For this study, viral genomes were sequenced from blood samples of Ebola infected patients. Each sample was linked to the following data: patient location, sample collection date, disease onset, and disease outcome. The median collection date was four days after the onset of symptoms. The viral gene sequence was derived from RNA sequencing of patient samples (Ebola is an RNA virus).

 

More at Ars Technica

Ebola ‘lives on in eye of US survivor’

The Ebola virus has been detected in the eye of a US doctor who had already recovered from the illness.

The medic, who caught the bug while working in Sierra Leone, had blurred eyesight and pain two months after being declared Ebola-free.

Scientists say his eye infection presents no risk to the public.

But reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine they warn that research is needed to see if Ebola can also linger in other parts of the body.

Inflammatory reaction

Patients with Ebola are generally discharged once tests show the virus is no longer present in blood. At this point, experts say, it cannot be spread to members of the general public.

 

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Ebola drug cures monkeys infected with West African virus strain

An experimental drug has cured monkeys infected with the Ebola virus, US-based scientists have said.

The treatment, known as TKM-Ebola-Guinea, targets the Makona strain of the virus, which caused the current deadly outbreak in West Africa.

All three monkeys receiving the treatment were healthy when the trial ended after 28 days; three untreated monkeys died within nine days.

Scientists cautioned that the drug’s efficacy has not been proven in humans.

 

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Ebola Drug Aids Some in a Study in West Africa

or the first time, a drug is showing promising signs of effectiveness in Ebola patients participating in a study. The medicine, which interferes with the virus’s ability to copy itself, seems to have halved mortality — to 15 percent, from 30 percent — in patients with low to moderate levels of Ebola in their blood, researchers have found. It had no effect in patients with more virus in their blood, who are more likely to die.

The drug, approved as an influenza treatment in Japan last year, was generally well tolerated.

“The results are encouraging in a certain phase of the disease,” Dr. Sakoba Keita, director of disease control for the Guinean Ministry of Health, said in a telephone interview. The drug is being tested in Guinea, one of the three West African countries most affected by the Ebola crisis.

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Ebola outbreak: Virus mutating, scientists warn

Scientists tracking the Ebola outbreak in Guinea say the virus has mutated.

Researchers at the Institut Pasteur in France, which first identified the outbreak last March, are investigating whether it could have become more contagious.

More than 22,000 people have been infected with Ebola and 8,795 have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Scientists are starting to analyse hundreds of blood samples from Ebola patients in Guinea.

They are tracking how the virus is changing and trying to establish whether it’s able to jump more easily from person to person

“We know the virus is changing quite a lot,” said human geneticist Dr Anavaj Sakuntabhai.

 

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Using power of computers to harness human genome may provide clues into Ebola virus

Ramaswamy Narayanan, Ph.D., professor in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University, is working to blend the power of computers with biology to use the human genome to remove much of the guesswork involved in discovering cures for diseases.

In an article titled “Ebola-Associated Genes in the Human Genome: Implications for Novel Targets,” published in the current MedCrave Online Journal of Proteomics and Bioinformatics, Narayanan describes how key genes that are present in our cells could be used to develop drugs for this disease.

“Bioinformatics is a powerful tool to help us understand biological data,” said Narayanan whose research has focused in this field for more than a decade. “We are mining the human genome for Ebola virus association to develop an understanding of the human proteins involved in this disease for subsequent research and development, and to potentially create a pipeline of targets that we can test and evaluate.”

 

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Mining Existing Drugs for Ebola Treatments

Researchers hope to repurpose already-approved drugs into potential anti-Ebola therapies

 

Using a novel drug-screening approach, researchers have found more than 50 drugs that show potential as anti-Ebola treatments, according to a study published today (December 17) in Emerging Microbes and Infections. The team used a noninfectious Ebola virus mimic to assess the ability of a large number of drugs to inhibit entry of the viral impostor into human cells. The researchers focused their search on drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and those in investigational trials, in the hopes of cutting costs and risks associated with early-stage drug development.

“Looking at approved drugs—especially in the context of an outbreak—and this type of off-list use of potential drugs, is useful,” said Matthew Frieman, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who was not involved in this study. “It can start discussions with doctors and clinicians in the field.”

More than 18,000 people have been infected with Ebola—including nearly 7,000 reported deaths—as part of the ongoing outbreak in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Although the Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, drugs to treat the disease have been difficult to develop. The current outbreak has spurred the use of experimental drugsto treat Ebola with some success.

 

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