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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The World Medical Science Community's Obligation to Universal Health Research in Combating Disease

"Since there is no vaccine or specific approved treatment for Ebola virus disease (EVD), there is a 'moral obligation' to collect and share all data generated, to understand the safety and efficacy of any intervention, and to evaluate promising interventions to inform future research, says Dr. Eleanor Fish, the senior author and senior scientist in the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI)."

"To date, no treatments or post-exposure prophylaxis are available for Ebola. Clinical trials for several vaccines are in various phases, with promising published results in humans."
"Nine individuals with Ebola virus were treated with Interferon ß-1a, and compared retrospectively with a matched cohort of 21 infected individuals receiving standardized supportive care only during the same time period at the same treatment centre in Guinea, West Africa from March 26, 2015 to June 12, 2015."
"Despite the limitations of a single arm, non-randomized study, we infer from these data that Interferon ß-1a treatment is worth further consideration for the treatment of Ebola virus disease', said Dr. Fish, who is also a Professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto, noting that the decision to undertake the clinical trial was based on previous preliminary scientific data, and on the fact that no currently approved antivirals exist to treat Ebola."
Alex Radkewycz, Senior Public Affairs Advisor, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network
Dr. Eleanor Fish, centre, with local health-care team in Guinea. Handout
A serendipitous discovery made by researchers led by Dr. Eleanor Fish of Toronto General Hospital raises hopes once again that the crisis represented by the deadly Ebola virus has a dependable tool in the too-sparse arsenal of its management. This is a discovery of vital importance given the fact that at the present time no treatment exists for Ebola, a virus that killed 11,000 people in the outbreak declared by the World Health Organization an epidemic of serious proportions in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Of those infected with the Ebola virus, the mortality rate of 60 percent made it a dread disease of high morbidity. The Toronto General Hospital Research Institute conducted laboratory experiments that pointed to the drug Interferon Beta-la used to treat chronic hepatitis B and C, was effective as well as a weapon against Ebola. It was given as an experimental treatment to nine Ebola patients; the results compared to 21 similar, Ebola-patients who were given the standardized "supportive" care.

The findings of the study were published in the journal PLOS One, that following 21 days after treatment, 67 percent of the Interferon-treated Ebola patients remained alive, while of the others who received supportive care, 19 percent of the patients survived. The virus, according to the researchers' conclusions, cleared more swiftly from patients' blood who had been given Interferon. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea were faster to subside in the Interferon-treated patients.

The paper concludes that further investigation is warranted, given the positive results and the fact that there is currently no effective treatment for patients of Ebola. Despite that the Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been declared by the World Health Organization over, resurgent incidences of Ebola occur randomly, and the expectation is that another epidemic can be expected to once again surface at some time in the future.

An earlier Canadian-assisted innovation did prove effective in a large-scale clinic trial, with an Ebola vaccine developed by the national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg. Interferons represent a grouping of naturally occurring proteins triggered by viral attacks. With certain diseases, in drug form they have proven to be effective in curbing infection through prevention of the virus from entering cells and by blocking stages of viral replication.

Red Cross workers remove the body of an Ebola victim in Guinea, where a Canadian study found that the drug Interferon may slash Ebola's death rate.
CELLOU BINANI/AFP/Getty Images    Red Cross workers remove the body of an Ebola victim in Guinea, where a Canadian study found that the drug Interferon may slash Ebola's death rate.

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