Tuesday 29 July 2014

Can we get a cure-Ebola prize please?

My usual filters failed me. I get most of my news via Twitter and RSS. And I missed this one when the story came out two days ago. Fortunately, I follow @McMahon4SH so I caught it today, albeit a bit late.

Not only has Ebola hit Lagos, which is huge, it got there by plane. That plane stopped in Togo along the way. Some passengers will have gotten off there. The Ebola patient vomited while on the plane then died at after being brought to hospital on landing at Lagos; anybody who used the airplane's toilet facilities plausibly came into contact with infectious materials. Here's ABC, from two days ago:
Sawyer reportedly did not show Ebola symptoms when he boarded the plane, Plyler said, but by the time he arrived in Nigeria he was vomiting and had diarrhea. There has not been another recently recorded case of Ebola spreading through air travel, he added. 
Nearly 50 other passengers on the flight are being monitored for signs of Ebola but are not being kept in isolation, said an employee at Nigeria's Ministry of Health, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The disease has a 2-21 day incubation period according to reports. So we've 19 days before we know whether those non-isolated passengers are in the clear. If one of them isn't, somebody's going to have to piece together all the people that non-isolated infectious individual came into contact with in the prior couple of days. The plane stopped in Togo on the way to Nigeria; nothing's reported on what's going there. Today's reports are not more reassuring:
The fact that a sick Liberian could board a flight to Nigeria raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa. Nigeria’s international airports were screening passengers arriving from foreign countries, and health officials were also working with ports and land borders to raise awareness of the disease. Togo’s government also said it was on high alert. 
An outbreak in Lagos, a megacity where many live lived in cramped conditions, could be a major public-health disaster.
There being no particular money in finding a cure for Ebola, and there being non-trivial risk from the disease, would it be too much to ask that a prize be established for whomever comes up with an effective treatment or vaccine so that the Red Death not hold illimitable dominion over all?


  1. Thank you for your efforts to keep'real time' information flowing re the current Ebola outbreak. As you know, media outlets worldwide have been unceremonilly gagged on this subject. Not ideal...This virus is petrifyingly elegant and has mutated with ease. We are told the host carriers are fruit bats. What are 'they'
    Waiting for?! Go net some bats and lets start cooking up a cure!
    Good luck Togo and Nigeria. Good luck to us all if this strain becomes airborne.

  2. The problem is not with the lack of resources in finding a vaccine/cure - they've being doing it since the day it was discovered (and the huge cost of drug development is largely through clinical trials to prove its safety rather than effectiveness). The problem is that with all the effort put into finding a cure, the cure can still be bloody hard to find no matter how hard you've been looking.

    An example - a project I was (tangentially) involved with received a shitload of money from some yankee public health service to find a deterrent for bed bugs. He found one compound in the first year that had some effectiveness but was nowhere near what they wanted for success. In the remaining years up to the period I left, he hadn't found anything else. A lot of scientific research is like that in terms of results.

  3. Hi Peter and all,
    I agree that drug development is laborious and expensive but what price will we pay if this monster causes a humanitarian crisis, the likes of which we cannot fathom? Ebola has the punch to rip out the pages of the Spanish Flu, chew them up and spit them out. Dramatic? Maybe. The American doctors who are now infected are simply collateral damage Because they are not on US soil. I wait with interest to see if a vaccine magically appears
    Should Ebola arrive and spread in a First World country.