News / Health

Ebola Pioneer Backs Experimental Drug Tests

An undated photo made available by the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, shows the Ebola virus viewed through an electron microscope.
An undated photo made available by the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, shows the Ebola virus viewed through an electron microscope.
Pamela Dockins

The Belgian researcher who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976 says "it is now or never" when it comes to testing experimental drugs that could help humans fight Ebola.  Guido van der Groen says conditions in West Africa are more conducive for large-scale tests today compared to when he first began studying the virus.

Guido van der Groen says he is not surprised by the extent of the ongoing Ebola outbreak, which has resulted in more than 1,000 deaths in West Africa since February.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The former head of the virology unit at Belgium's Institute of Tropical Medicine says Africa is now a different place from when he first studied Ebola more than 30 years ago in what was then Zaire.

"When we started to find the virus for the first time, the areas in which we found this virus was the northern part of Zaire, which was really a rural area and which was not densely populated and in these days, the mobility of the people was very, very, very low compared to now," said van der Groen.

Van der Groen says while Africa's population density has contributed to the spread of the virus, it could also benefit researchers considering experimental treatments.  

"On a daily basis, you still have a decent number of new infections.  So, that means that there are a number of patients that you can follow," said van der Groen. "If you have a chance to start to treat some of them, you will learn in a very, very short period if some of these promising products are indeed are beneficial."

Van der Groen is now retired but says he has a lot of correspondence with teams that are working on experimental drugs.

Human trials
 

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

One drug under development is a vaccine that contains the strain of Ebola that is currently spreading in West Africa.

The drug, which is based on the human rabies vaccine, is being developed by Matthais Schnell, the director of the vaccine center at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.  

"Currently, the plans are to perform the first human trials of the vaccine in two to three years but, depending on funding, we could do it earlier," said Schnell.  

Another experimental drug, ZMapp, is being used to treat several people who were infected with Ebola in West Africa.

Thomas Geisbert is a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.  He says any decision to use experimental Ebola drugs on a wider scale would be complicated.

"I think it is a very complicated question," said Geisbert. "I think it is complex and I think it is probably a question that is best left to the regulatory groups."  

He also says pharmaceutical companies have been slow to develop potential drugs that could help fight or prevent Ebola because there is a "small global market" for the products.

He says on a global scale, Ebola cases are relatively low when compared to conditions such as malaria, influenza or cancer.

The current outbreak in four West African countries has affected just under 2,000 people -- although the number of cases continues to grow on a daily basis.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More