MS Risk Blog

Spread of Ebola Continues as WHO Agrees to the Use of Untested Drugs

Posted on in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, West Africa title_rule

On Tuesday, a World Health Organisation (WHO) panel of medical experts ruled that it is ethical to offer untested drugs or vaccines to those people either infected or at risk due to the current Ebola outbreak. The panel however has cautioned West African officials that supplies will be limited.

WHO Approves Untested Drugs

A statement released by the WHO indicated that the panel has disclosed that any provision of experimental Ebola medicines would require “informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community,” adding that the drugs should be properly tested in the best possible clinical trials. The ethics panel met last week in order to discuss whether various experimental drugs and vaccines being developed to fight Ebola may be used in the current outbreak despite not having been fully tested or licensed. The meeting was called after the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which is produced by US biotech company Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, was given to two American health workers who were infected with Ebola while working in Liberia.

On Wednesday, Canadian officials disclosed that between 800 and 1,000 doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine, which has so far only been tested on animals, will be donated to the WHO for use in West Africa. Canada however will keep a small portion of the vaccine for further research and in the event that an Ebola case appears in the country.

However while Canada has announced that it will send doses of the experimental vaccine to the WHO, experts are warning that it will likely take between four and six months in order to make a large enough quantity to have any real impact at preventing the illness. Officials at the WHO have disclosed that so-called “first in man” trials, which are the first tests of the drug to be carried out on humans, will likely be conducted over the next two to four months. However even if the trials of the drug prove to be successful, supplies of it will remain limited, noting “it is…likely that the number of doses available for further study and/or deployment from end 2014 onwards will remain insufficient to meet demand.”

New WHO Figures Released

New data released by the WHO on Monday indicated that the death toll in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has now passed 1,000, and that the outbreak does not appears to be slowing down. In a press release Monday, the United Nations health agency confirmed that 1,013 people have died in the outbreak with authorities recording 1,848 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease. The updated WHO figures are from August 7 – 9, when 52 people died and 69 more were infected. During this period, Guinea reported six additional deaths and 11 new infections; Liberia had 29 more deaths and 45 cases while Sierra Leone saw 17 new fatalities and 13 new cases.

In total, Guinea has reported 506 cases, with 373 deaths; Liberia has 599 cases, with 323 deaths; Sierra Leone has reported 730 cases and 315 deaths while Nigeria has thirteen cases and two deaths.

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