EXCLUSIVE: The Likely Cure For Ebola, By Dr. Simbo Davidson

An Ebola patient being attended to

Dr. Simbo Davidson believes sufferers of Ebola can be treated with a drug available in the market and which was once used to contain a deadly virus in South Africa


On 22 July 2014, the first case of the dreaded Ebola virus arrived in Nigeria via an Asky aircraft. However, no one knew it at the time. How did this happen? How had this patient been screened at his port of departure, that is Liberia airport? We can also ask ourselves yet another question. Why is it taking so long to curtail the epidemic? For instance, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently announced that as at 23 July 2014, the Ebola epidemic had claimed 672 lives. Furthermore, there are currently 1201 suspected and confirmed cases across West Africa. In terms of intervention, the current strategy appears to be related to the use of universal precautions: case isolation, hand-washing, and health worker protection and palliative treatments (such as pain management, and rehydrating fluids).

In theory, this strategy may be quite effective. This is because epidemic control strategies usually aim to reduce person-to-person transmission through avoidance related methods (WHO, 2014). In this case, persons at risk will need to avoid contact with the body fluids of infected person, including sweat, semen, vomit, faeces, urine, blood and saliva (Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers, WHO 2014).

In practice, avoidance techniques may not work, as in reality, these are the most basic of preventive measures. Firstly, a high level of hygiene is required and this may be relatively impossible in the urban slums and rural areas of many African countries. Secondly, isolation centres will need to be stationed in every single district or local government area. In many developing African countries, such centres may not be adequately manned, suitably stationed, or reasonably equipped. So, invariably, many infected persons are nursed at home or buried at home. Hence, the cycle of transmission continues. What then can be done?

From a Public Health perspective, there are several ways that epidemics may be subdued: 1). Interrupt the cycle of transmission e.g prevent cross-contamination 2). Protect the susceptible host e.g through vaccination or 3). Eliminate the reservoir of infection e.g. kill all animals that harbour the Ebola virus.

Starting from the third option, we immediately encounter the difficulty of which animals to slaughter. Unlike Avian flu, it isn’t clear which animal is involved here? Bats? Rodents? Monkeys? In addition, the Ebola virus has no vaccine to date; so that leaves only one other option: interrupt the cycle of transmission. The question then is ‘Has this been effectively done? How have other nations contained similar epidemics?

On 21 September 2008, a woman was admitted at a South African hospital for fever, vomiting and diarrhea, “followed by a rash,” and signs of organ failure (Keeton, 2008). The woman died the next day. Three more cases were reported, in quick succession, to the National Institute for Communicable Disease in South Africa. They all died within a few days of admission. Three of the patients were medical staff. Researcher Keeton (2008) noted that all cases presented with “ flu-like illness (in a similar way to Ebola) and had fever, headache and muscle pain. When the fifth patient surfaced, the institute had diagnosed an outbreak of an old world arena virus infection. While this specific virus did not cause internal bleeding, it belonged to the same class of viruses that did, e.g West African LASSA fever causes fever and bleeding (Keeton ,2008). According to Keeton (2008), the fifth patient (a nurse) was “treated with Ribavirin, which has been effective in patients with LASSA fever, and she has since made a good recovery” (Keeton, 2008).

Ribavirin then was the deciding factor in this case. All other palliative methods failed, intravenous fluids, etc. Why then should we expect such interventions to work now in 2014? Surely an antiviral, which worked in a similar situation six years ago, should also be a consideration in this case? The virus isolated in South Africa had never been subjected to Ribavirin in a research setting (Keeton 2008). In effect, there was no guarantee that it would work. But this was nevertheless the most logical approach to the impending threat.

Ribavirin is a broad-spectrum antiviral agent. It is effective against a wide range of RNA viruses including viral hemorrhagic viruses such as LASSA fever (Crotty, Cameron, & Andino, 2001). According to the trio, Ribavirin was discovered in 1972. It can therefore not be classified as an experimental drug. Ribavirin also acts independently of the viral RNA sequence. Therefore flaviruses (of which Yellow fever is a member) and arena viruses (of which Lassa fever is a member) differ somewhat in structure but are still responsive to the antiviral. The critical success factor, however, may be timely intervention. Ribavirin is contraindicated after organ (e.g. kidney or liver failure) sets in. It may therefore be imperative that treatment be commenced during the early phase of the illness. While the antiviral may not be available as an OTC, (non prescription drug) large orders (in tablet or injectable form) may be made directly from the manufacturers. Fortunately, no fewer than six global pharmaceutical giants, including Sandoz and Roche, are currently manufacturing the antiviral.

In terms of potential impact, the Ebola virus is an RNA virus, and a member of the viral hemorrhagic fevers, such as LASSA fever, Rift valley fever, Marburg virus, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic virus and Yellow fever (Crotty et al.,2001; Keeton, 2008). Most of the VHF viruses present with similar symptoms such as flu-like illness, vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, skin rashes and bleeding (Keeton, 2008). Most are invariably fatal without therapeutic intervention, or vaccination (if available). These statistics clearly indicate that the VHF viruses have similar molecular mechanisms.

Therefore, in view of the current status of the epidemic, the next logical approach should be related to therapeutic intervention. There is certainly no hard evidence that such an approach would be fruitless, while there is certainly compelling evidence that the outcome may be positive.


Crotty, S., Cameron, C., & Andino R.(2001).Ribavirin’s antiviral mechanism of action: Lethal mutagenesis? Journal of Molecular Medicine,(2002) 80 :86-95

Infection Control for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers in the African Setting.

(World Health Organisation and CDC. 2014)

Keeton, C.(2008).South African Doctors move quickly to contain a new virus. World Health Organization. Bulletin of The World Health Organisation 86.12(Dec 2008) :912-3

Simbo Davidson (MBBS, MPH, PCQI) is a Public Health specialist working in a private hospital in Lagos, Nigeria.

She wrote this article exclusively for PREMIUM TIMES.


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  • Alex

    We certainly need to think hard and work to provide a cure to Ebola.

    In doing that, we need to reconcile Dr Simbo Davidson’s argument with the claims below.

    ‘Ribavirin, an antiviral drug used to treat several other hemorrhagic fevers, has no in vitro effect on Marburg and EBO viruses, failed to protect in multiple primate studies, and is unlikely to have any clinical value to human patients’ http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/179/Supplement_1/S240.full

    ‘Ribavirin, a broad-spectrum antiviral drug, is active against hemorrhagic fever viruses (with the exception of Ebola virus) in cell culture systems…Ribavirin has not been effective in animal models of filoviral and flaviviral infections’. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2546248

    ‘Ribavirin has shown no activity against, and is not recommended for Filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever) or Flaviviruses (Yellow fever, Kyasanur Forest disease, Omsk hemorrhagic fever)’. http://www.sfcdcp.org/document.html?id=79

  • Datti

    This makes a good reading but its common knowledge that the hemorrhagic fevers are not homogeneous. The families of these viruses include Flaviviridae(yellow fever), Arenaviridae (Lassa fever), Filoviridae (Ebola), etc. and their molecular structures differ from one to the other. As early as 1990 it has been shown that the Filoviridae (Ebola & Marburg) are not sensitive to Ribavarin unlike Lassa fever that has moderate sensitivity. Yellow fever has low sensitivity to Ribavarin. As you are aware, these are the days of evidence based medicine and no one would rush to use medications that have been proven in effective both in vitro and vivo.

    Thomas,PM:Ribavirin,interferon, and antibody approaches to prophylaxis and therapy for viral hemorrhagic fevers.Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases, 1990,3:824-825

    • Dan maikoko

      There you go again. Classification, categorization and the “anatomy” of diseases. You spend valuable time doing this instead of paying attention to how people will stay healthy. “Evidence based medicine” as you say, but would you accept my concoction if it cures Ebola and other diseases without trying to find out how it works or why? Will you approve it immediately if I give it to you in your time and practice, and 10 confirmed patients come in and all ten leave your clinic cured? Evidence based medicine is only a veiled reference to your institutionalised “evidence” and “medicine”.

      • Segun

        Don’t be annoyed. Give Ribavarin to anyone in your care that has Ebola. I believe you have enough money to pay for damages. Nigerians are wiser now. Your concoction, thank God you said concoction, could only be administered to your patients with your babalawo mentality, the practice of medicine is different. Thank God you are not a doctor!

        • Dan maikoko

          Giving Ribavirin or any other concoction is still better than the best that modern medicine can offer to Ebola patients which is nothing!


    HELLO and regards,

  • Okon

    I am surprised that Dr. Davidson is suggesting the treatment of filoviridae with ribavarin. It is common knowledge that this won’t work. A little ‘literature search’ would have avoided this embarrassment.

    • Sanya

      That is precisely the point. “A little search in the literature”! Who’s behind the dominant literature?

  • Dan maikoko

    As an Engineer I always try to prove things for myself. I just want the doctors here commenting never to take anything for granted. I laughed at the idea than that as an electrical engineer a layman will try to convince me that there is a magnet with one pole! That this pole is both north and south, a unipolar magnet! I bought one later from Ebay and held it in my own hands, experimented and proved that both poles exist on all sides. How come I was not told about this magnet in school when it was known for the last 100 years?

    Pls dont rely on others research especially establishment research as they are motivated by money and influenced by big pharma. Think of it, of what use is our advanced science if there is no cure for viral infections such as aids or metabolic diseases such as cancer in more than a hundred years of modern medicine?

    A medical doctor by the name Stanislaw Burzynsky in Texas has been treating all manner of cancers using a method he calls antineoplaston therapy on FDA approved trials, with more than 50% success, on patients that have already been severely incapacitated by the standard 3 cancer treatments for more than 30 years (the FDA demands that he does not treat fresh patients but only patients who have failed radiation, surgery and/or chemo). Yet we never hear of him. A search on the net in any establishment site funded by the drug companies will turn up that Dr. Brezynsky is using an unproven treatment protocol and some even describe him as a fraud. But he is on FDA approved trial which has reached stage III. The only thing preventing him from stage III trials (and approval of his therapy) is the $300 million fee the FDA is charging. A combination of the FDA, the Texas medical board, the American Medical Association (AMA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), big PHARMA and the US government have convened 5 grand jury investigation of this lone doctor for 30 years without conviction. His only crime was healing and actually curing all cancers with the scientific and common sense approach of using peptides to turn on tumor suppressor genes while at the same time turning off oncogenes.

    I leave you with this quote:

    “Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship to restrict the art of healing to one class of Men and deny equal privileges to
    others; the Constitution of the Republic should make a Special
    provision for medical freedoms as well as religious freedom.”
    ― Benjamin Rush (January 4, 1746 [O.S. December 24, 1745] – April 19, 1813) was a Founding Father of the United States. Rush lived in the state of Pennsylvania and was a physician, writer, educator, humanitarian, as well as the founder of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

    • Chima

      Americans sans USA today says Stanislaw Burzynsky is a SCAM.

  • Adeola Temitope

    Lets try it, I believe if we give Ribavarin to anyone at the earliest stage of the disease, it could help. What’s the alternative? to let the patients wait and die alone? Try Ribavarin. Nigeria can not afford to be helpless! This doctor must immediately be made a member of the Presidential panel on Ebola

    • Dan maikoko

      Thank you Adeola. If Ribavirin can cure Ebola there will be no money in it since its patent has expired. So every Tom Dick and Harry pharmacy can manufacture and sell it. This is the real reason the big pharmaceuticals will discourage its use through their funded “research” and “study”. Copycat doctors will now site these “research” to discredit other Doctors who try to use it.

  • Ojo Peter

    I have implicit confidence in our medical team. Nigerians are intellectually rugged. We will work and excel if we
    want to. We only become mischievous when money and politics are involved. Ebola is curable. if only we will allow those who have come forward with trial drugs to prove themselves. Our problem is that we always wait for foreigners to come
    and confirm our work. Because of the multi-million dollars business prospect of Ebola drugs, the US and Britain will never agree that the cure can come from somewhere else. You can see that even ZMapp has already been patented to a drug company in the US even before it is fully cleared.

    If the American CDC will allow the untested drug to be used for their citizens, why not Nigerian do the same.
    instead, all the classroom and office scientists were assembled and they were being made to validate a drug they have no iota of knowledge of its development. These people who are suppose to be drugs researchers themselves have never been heard of anywhere until now. Just because someone somewhere needed them to do a hatchet-man’s job. They started asking 18th century research questions for a 21st century virus. Who is that researcher that will give all the details about his discovery before you give him opportunity to undertake clinical trials of his findings? Wait a little while, you will hear how NanoSilver will be hijacked by western powers and given another name and brought back to us here to pay for it. The black-man and his backward thinking.

    What is the difference? If you allow the clinical trials of this drugs, those who will die will die and those will survive will do. But the chances are that many more will survive and who say all cannot survive if the drug is potent enough. If you don’t buy lies, you will may never buy truth. In medical history, there is no confirmed drug that was not given a trial opportunity. Our mentally colonized doctors will talk about evidence based medicine. Go and ask the Lambos of the Aro fame what they were doing or are doing with mental ailment. They use the Ifa to carry out clinical investigation and use the same method to seek solution. At the end, the important thing is that the man is cured of madness. He uses his medical position to certify him fit. Out doctors should wake up and see what Chinese are doing with their traditional medicines. Are you aware that the Chinese are boasting that they have a cure for Ebola? using their Chinese medicines? I our doctors will ever tell the truth, they will tell you sincerely that they are certificated murderers who have killed severally in error in the course of medical practice. Give our people the opportunity to excel and stop putting road blocks on the way of medical breakthroughs.