The United States of America recently dashed the hopes of an early cure for Ebola Virus victims in Nigeria when it refused to share the trial drug with Nigeria. US President Barak Obama says it would be premature to share the experimental drug with Africa.
The Federal Government had earlier reached out to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, in Atlanta, to request for the drug for treatment of EVD affected persons in Nigeria, but President Obama turned down the request, saying it would be far more beneficial to focus on prevention instead.
Nigeria recorded its first Ebola Virus disease fatality on Tuesday when one of the nurses who was one of the primary contacts of the American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer, passed on. The doctor who treated Sawyer, who died in the country after flying into Lagos, is now ill with Ebola and six other primary contacts are currently ill with the disease in a Lagos hospital where they are quarantined.
Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu and Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku had disclosed on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja that the Federal Government was awaiting the response of the request it made to the CDC on Tuesday.
Addressing the 50 African leaders at the US-African Summit in Washington, President Obama stated that it is “premature” to send an experimental medicine for the treatment of Ebola to West Africa, as he lacked enough information to approve the drug that was already being used on two American aid workers whose conditions were said to have improved by varying degrees.
“We’ve got to let the science guide us and I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful. The Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.
“The countries affected are the first to admit that what’s happened here is the public health systems have been overwhelmed. They weren’t able to identify and then isolate cases quickly enough.
“As a consequence, it spread more rapidly than has been typical with the periodic Ebola outbreaks that occurred previously,” he remarked.
As a palliative, President Obama announced plans by the US to spend $110 million annually, for three to five years, totall ing $330-$550 million, to help African nations develop rapid reaction peacekeeping forces.
The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.
The experimental medicine is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus and then the antibodies generated within the mice’s blood were harvested to create the medicine. It works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.
Developed by a San Diego Company, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the experimental serum had never been tried before on human beings but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys. Company documents show that four monkeys infected with Ebola survived after being given the therapy within 24 hours after infection.
In the monkeys, the experimental serum had been given within 48 hours of infection. Two of four other monkeys that started therapy within 48 hours after infection also survived. One monkey that was not treated died within five days of exposure to the virus.