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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid