From the Journals

Ebola research update: September 2016


The struggle to defeat Ebola virus disease continues globally, although it may not always make the headlines. To catch up on what you may have missed, here are some notable news items and journal articles published over the past few weeks that are worth a second look.

Ebola virus disease complicated by multiple organ failure can be survivable with advanced life support measures, according to a study of EVD patients treated in the United States.

An analysis of the 2014 Ebola virus disease outbreak in Nigeria found that early detection of cases, an efficacious incident management system, and rapid case management with on-site mobilization and training of local professionals were important to better outcomes, prompt containment, and no infection among EVD care-providers.

Viral genome sequence data uniquely reveals the 2013-2016 epidemic of Ebola virus disease in West Africa to be “a heterogeneous and spatially dissociated collection of transmission clusters of that were of varying size, duration, and connectivity,” according to a recent study.

A case study of Lassa fever involved the development of a mathematical framework which was applied to try to determine how much of disease transmission was from animal to human and how much was from human to human. This knowledge can be used to “infer human disease risk based on knowledge of infection patterns in the animal reservoir host and the contact mechanisms required for transmission to humans.”

A decontamination protocol that relies on the use of both peracetic acid and hydrogen peroxide fumigation was proposed for a biosafety level 3 field laboratory as a part of an Ebola treatment center in Guinea. Inoculated stainless steel disks of bioindicators containing spores of Geobacillus stearothermophilus were used to control the protocol.

A survey in New Zealand indicated that a future Ebola outbreak would have “large social and economic consequences” because judging from survey responses, a large percentage of the population would avoid social contact, such as going to work, school, and social events, to protect their health, according to a study in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. Survey respondents also indicated a willingness to receive a vaccine.

Investigators identified contact tracing as an important determinant of the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic’s behavior in Guinea. Also, early availability of Ebola treatment unit beds was key in limiting the number of Ebola cases.

The WHO Ebola Response Team said that empirical and modeling studies performed during the West African Ebola virus disease epidemic have demonstrated that large epidemics of EVD can be prevented, that “a rapid response can interrupt transmission and restrict the size of outbreaks, even in densely populated cities.”

In 2015, the first nationwide semen testing and counseling program for male Ebola survivors, the Men’s Health Screening Program, was established in Liberia, according to a report in MMWR. Researchers said involvement with the survivor community, communication, and flexibility were key to the program’s success.

A $13 million NIH grant to study how the Ebola virus replicates has been awarded to a team at Washington University, St. Louis.

A recent study found that vector delivery of two antibody components of the ZMapp product works in mice against systemic and airway challenge with a mouse-adapted strain of Ebola virus. The authors say this platform “provides a generic manufacturing solution and overcomes some of the delivery challenges associated with repeated administration of the protective protein.”

U.S. Army researchers based at Fort Detrick, Md., are developing relationships with Ebola survivors in Uganda, who the researchers believe may hold the key to a vaccine or treatment for the infection because many Ugandans have survived the epidemic.

A qualitative study in PLOS Current Outbreaks found that the preparedness of U.S. health care volunteers in the West Africa Ebola deployment was inadequate. The authors said effective policies and practices must be developed and implemented to properly protect the health and well-being of volunteers.

Investigators hypothesized that cannabidiol, based on its pharmacological effects and favorable safety profile, should be considered as a treatment for individuals with post-Ebola sequelae because it can reduce pain and inflammation.

On Twitter @richpizzi

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