Although we won’t know the results until the post-meeting press conference tomorrow (Friday, 5 September, at 18:00 CEST 12:00 EDT), today and tomorrow the World Health Organization is convening a consultation of international experts to discuss potential Ebola therapies and vaccines.
Given the extent of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a little over three weeks ago (see Ethical Use Of Experimental Drugs In Ebola Outbreak ) the WHO released a statement basically saying – `Yes’ – untested experimental drugs can be ethically used in this Ebola outbreak provided it is done under specific conditions and guidelines.
In addition to the high profile use of the experimental monoclonal antibody ZMapp (see WHO Update: Anecdotal Evidence On Experimental Ebola Drugs) and the start this week of Ebola Vaccine testing (see NIH To Launch Trials On Ebola Vaccine Candidate), we’ve also see a flurry of far less reputable solutions being promoted by various factions – including nanosilver and homeopathic remedies.
Almost immediately the FDA warned consumers about fraudulent Ebola treatment products and the WHO began to aggressively discount these `cures’ on their twitter account.
Also, in an attempt to dial back some of the excessive media hype over what are unproven and untested drugs, we saw the WHO Warn Of `Unrealistic Expectations’ Over Experimental Ebola Drugs a couple of weeks ago.
The bottom line is, right now, there is no treatment or vaccine for Ebola that is proven both safe and effective, and the handful of experimental drugs that are available for testing are in very short supply.
This week’s meeting will focus their attentions on 8 therapies and two vaccine candidates that have shown the most promise.
First this summary from the WHO, then I’ll be back with more on the drugs on the table.
Place: Geneva, Swizerland
Date: 4-5 September 2014
The current west African Ebola outbreak is unprecedented in size, complexity and the strain it has imposed on health systems. There is intense public interest in, and demand for, anything that offers hope of definitive treatment. A range of unproven interventions-blood products, immune therapies, drugs and vaccines are under different stages of development but none have yet been licensed for standard use.
In early August, an expert panel convened by WHO concluded that, in the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, it is ethical to offer such unproven interventions as potential treatments or for prevention of infection.
This week, on September 4-5, WHO is bringing together technical experts from the groups developing Ebola interventions along with people working to overcome Ebola virus disease including policy-makers from Ebola affected countries, ethicists, clinicians, researchers, regulators and patient representatives.
The purpose of this meeting
- Review and evaluate the current state of development of interventions for Ebola virus disease (therapies and vaccines).
- Agree the overall objectives for a plan for evaluation and use of potential interventions.
- Identify and identify the most important actions that need to be taken.
- Establish what support is required.
The following charts come from the WHO Background document on potential Ebola therapies and vaccines.
One of the therapies under consideration is something we’ve discussed in the past for both avian flu and MERS (see MERS-CoV: The Long Road To A Pharmacological Solution). It is called convalescent plasma, and its roots go back to Fibiger’s trial of serum treatment of diphtheria at the end of the 19th century.
While a bit more complicated in reality, in theory it is a pretty simple idea:
Blood is collected from patients that have been infected and have recovered from a viral infection, and through a process called plasmapheresis, blood cells are removed (using filters or a centrifuge) and the remaining antibody-rich plasma is then used to treat ill patients.
A variation of this therapy is also under consideration.
Several antiviral drugs are also under consideration, including:
Rounding out the therapies are Interferon (commonly used to treat chronic hepatitis and multiple sclerosis), and ZMapp.
Finally/ you can see a List of participants to this meeting.