Science Policy For All

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Science Policy Around the Web – October 3, 2014

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By: Bethanie L. Morrison, Ph.D.

photo credit: Xavier Donat via photopin cc



When Ebola protection fails

“Working in an Ebola treatment unit need not be a life-threatening endeavor. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it myself and it wouldn’t be ethical for me to counsel other people to do it,” says epidemiologist Daniel Bausch of Tulane University, who worked in Ebola units in Guinea and Sierra Leone at the beginning of the Ebola outbreak. Health care workers who have survived an Ebola infection have recently shared their stories with Science and all admit to being unsure of the source of their infection. Interestingly, the health care workers do not think they were infected by patients in the Ebola treatment units (ETUs) where safety precautions are the most stringent, but most likely in the emergency rooms and clinics. They all say that the greatest danger lies with patients whose status is unknown.  According to Senga Omeonga, an Ebola survivor and doctor working in Sierra Leone, “a lot of them were lying when they came to the hospital,” he says. “They didn’t even tell you they’re having fevers. They’d say they fell down or were on a motorbike or someone pushed them or they went to work and passed out.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently running 3-day training sessions for health care workers. These sessions are meant to closely mimic the environment where the workers will be helping patients in Africa. Thus far, nearly every trainee has had a breach of protocol. However, it is better to catch these breaches now, in the U.S., instead of in the middle of a treatment center in Africa.  (Jon Cohen, Science Magazine)


Could Ebola virus become ‘bioterrorist threat’?

While lawmakers and experts are investigating the possibility of the weaponization of Ebola, they say it is more likely that the highly pathogenic virus will spread through accidental and crude means. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), says that any real attempt at weaponizing Ebola would “have to be a state thing. I don’t think you’re going to get some rogue person being able to do that.” While it is not impossible, enhancing the pathogenicity of Ebola would, “require experts with advanced training and equipment that would be difficult for any but a state actor to obtain,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On the other hand, it would not take a lot of sophistication to spread the disease via infected suicide bomber, who would be willing to put him/herself in danger in order to harm others. Scott Gottlieb, a physician and former Food and Drug Administration official is confident that appropriate government agencies “have thought through these scenarios and are well aware of the risks.” (Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Fox News)


A Liberian doctor is using HIV drugs to treat Ebola victims. The NIH is intrigued.

At least 15 people infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia have been given lamivudine, and all but 2 of them have survived, according to Dr. Gorbee Logan, the doctor administering this controversial therapy. Lamivudine is an effective long-term drug used to treat people with HIV. According to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is not unbelievable that this treatment would be effective. Lamivudine is a type of nucleoside analog, a class of drugs that alter the replication ability of certain viruses. Dr. Fauci said that as of yet, scientists at the NIH have not been able to see a reaction between lamivudine and the Ebola virus, but they will try it again, “to see if there’s even slight activity against Ebola.” If so, the NIH may be prepared to move to trial stage, according to Dr. Fauci. The most positive thing about lamivudine is that is an agent already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can therefore be much more easily distributed than a newly developed agent. In the meantime, Dr. Logan is concerned that the trial stage is too lengthy of a process. He is trying to save lives and is willing to try any therapy he thinks may work in order to do so. “Our people are dying and you’re talking about studies?” Logan said to CNN. “It’s a matter of doing all that I can do as a doctor to save some people’s lives.” (Elahe Izadi, The Washington Post)



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Written by sciencepolicyforall

October 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm

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