Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently published an encouraging study that showed that the antiviral remdesivir and the antibodies from the ZMapp treatment were successful in fighting Ebola. All of the findings were published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The study has also proved that a reverse-engineered virus that was developed was actually a very good substitute for the virus present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We need to keep in mind that they do not have access to the real thing there.
Are the treatments useful for what is happening right now in DRC?
There are two experimental treatments that have been used in the DRC since November, last year. Data showed that they were efficient. The drugs had been developed between 2014 and 2016 when the West Africa outbreak took place. They used it for a different strain of the Ebola virus. And due to the fact that Ebola is an RNA virus, it can actually mutate. People have been wondering if the treatments would be useful for this kind of strain that is happening right now in DRC.
Researchers have reverse-engineered a sample of this kind of outbreak, called the Ituri strain in a biosafety level 4 lab. We are talking about the highest-security type. They did it in order to test the treatments. They also created the synthetic virus because there were no samples of the current strain available by the DRC.
As technology keeps progressing, and the virus strains become more and more feasible, if the isolates are not available, the authors of the study recommend a policy where reverse genetics is used in order to get the outbreak strains as a standard practice.
This is actually the first time reverse genetics technology has been used to make an Ebola virus isolate.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca