Ebola: Nigerian doctor identifies likely cure, suggests plan for containment


Simbo Davidson says Ribavarin could be a possible cure for the disease.

A Nigerian public health doctor, Simbo Davidson, has suggested a possible cure for the Ebola virus currently ravaging parts of West Africa.

According to Ms. Davidson, two different studies by the University of Helsinki, Finland, published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine, and Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology recommended the treatment of RNA positive and RNA negative viruses, which share common features with the Ebola virus, with Ribavarin, a broad spectrum antiviral and Guanosine analogue.

Ms. Davidson added that Magden J., Kaariainen L., and Ahola T, in the research paper, Inhibitors of Virus Replication: Recent developments and prospects, published in the Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology specifically mention Ebola in the list of viruses that can be cured by Ribavarin.

Others are Respiratory Syncytial virus, HCV (Hepatitis C virus),Hantaan virus, and Pox viruses.

In a piece published exclusively by PREMIUM TIMES, Ms. Davidson argued that because there is no vaccine for the Ebola virus, an immediate interruption of its cycle of transmission by the treatment of Ribavarin is the best way to limit the spread of the virus.

In the piece, she described the effectiveness of the Ribavarin in the treatment of a similar outbreak in South Africa:

“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,” she explained.

“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. In effect, there was no guarantee that it would work. But this was nevertheless the most logical approach to the impending threat,” she argued.

She also canvassed the use of the drug at the early stages of infection for it to have the desired effect.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Daily Sunrise programme on Friday, Ms. Davidson said the no-contact approach being adopted by the government would do very little in limiting the spread of the virus. She argued that such an approach would not succeed in the country in the face of poor infrastructure.

“We talk about no contamination, what about the people in buses; don’t they sit beside sweaty people? How do you stop people who live in slums and those without any running water? You say wash your hands, where is the water? What about housing? 10-11 persons live in two-bedroom and one-room apartments? So we haven’t got the infrastructure for this no-contact strategy,” she explained.

Arguing that government’s response to the outbreak has been poor, Ms. Davidson called for increased surveillance of land borders, international airports as well as the opening of more isolation centres and testing laboratories.

“We need to have a proper strategy and I think this is where we need to look at what needs to be done at the borders? Who needs to be trained at the borders? What sort of screening can we do at the borders? What we have at the borders are just custom officials, we don’t have medical people standing around there, we don’t have people who are screening those who are coming in and going out we need to set up some kind of surveillance at the borders.

“We need to have trained people not just customs officials. You can’t get a 100 per cent coverage but you can get something and I think even what the airlines are doing couple of weeks ago – they’re checking body temperature. It’s just something simple as checking the temperature of the person and having a good look at the person. You can’t possibly screen everyone. If you have somebody with temperature you can say ‘sir please step aside please’ and bring out your rapid testing kits. What’s happened to the kits? A lot of people don’t have those kits; even the hospitals don’t have those kits. There should be some sort of mini labs and centres everywhere right now along with more of the isolation centres.

“So we need a lot of education, we need to have isolation centres, we need to have mini labs testing people. There is no reason why we have one testing reference centre, it’s not going to work for the whole country. At least, every state needs to have one good testing reference centre. And all the other ones would be trained to collect samples and send there,” she advised.

Following the lapses at the land borders where people travelling from high-risk countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone could be allowed into the country without being screened, she said that it could not be categorically said that there is no infection in the country.

According to her only reported cases are known to health officials.

“Because we do not have any contact that have come down with the disease does not mean that we do not have any cases of the disease. He came in on an airline that has been flying people into Nigeria for the past five months and we have people travelling to Liberia by road, travelling Sierra Leone by roads and we don’t screen anybody at the borders. So we have a lot of people going in and out of those high-risk areas and we haven’t been able to stop them from doing so,” she said.

Ms. Davidson argued that with the spread of the virus across borders, the strategy of trying to contain it has failed and thus government needs to start thinking of other means of stopping the virus before an epidemic occurs.

“What are we doing here talking about washing our hands, yes we have to wash our hands, using PPE but what about the medical doctors in Liberia, they were all using PPE and they still got infected. Once viruses starting crossing borders it means we haven’t contained it yet.”

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