Secret experimental Ebola drug enters clinical trial

The WHO says a vaccine could be available by 2015

By Joanna Rothkopf
August 11, 2014 6:04PM (UTC)
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(Festa via Shutterstock)

As the Ebola outbreak continues to spread in West Africa, Guinea has denied that it ever closed its borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone, despite reports from journalists who claim that large trucks block people from entering or exiting the country, requiring some to pay officials for passage.

Meanwhile, a panel of health ethicists put together by the World Health Organization will convene today. The panel will begin to wrestle with the benefits of providing untested Ebola drugs to thousands of infected patients, when around 40 percent of all those infected will survive with supportive care. The panel is especially pertinent now that the Spanish missionary infected with the virus will receive the same experimental drug taken by the two American patients.


“This is the first effort to have a long-overdue, transparent, public discussion about how to distribute life-saving medicines in an emergency,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, in an interview with Bloomberg. “A ton of attention is going to follow this panel.”

To make matters worse, the epidemic has begun to cause disruption in the West African economy. The Associated Press reports:

"When you have a widespread outbreak of Ebola, you can end up with a panic," said John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. "People won't go to work. Expatriates will leave. Economic activity will slow. Fields won't get planted."

The World Bank estimates that the outbreak will shrink economic growth in Guinea, where the crisis emerged in March, from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent this year.

One ray of good news appeared this weekend: the assistant director general of the WHO Marie-Paule Kieny said that an Ebola vaccine could be ready for public use by 2015. "I think it's realistic," she said of the drug, which is expected to be in clinical trials shortly.


More on the outbreak:

  • The Associated Press' Connie Cass on why you should be afraid of Ebola, but not too afraid
  • The New York Times featured an editorial on the outbreak that didn't really bring any novel information or opinion to the discussion
  • You still cannot get Ebola through the air. Seriously
  • A Nigerian man is being tested for the virus in isolation in Hong Kong
  • Talking about Ebola on Twitter may help relieve some anxiety, but also spreads bad science
  • The Nigerian capital Lagos now has 10 reported cases of the virus
  • West Africans fill churches to pray for deliverance from the "devil" disease

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Ebola Guinea Update Vaccine Who