Ebola virus: British experts urge US and WHO to ‘give Africans cure’

Authorities in West Africa have expressed outrage that treatment was given to two US aid workers in Liberia – where disease has killed 255 people

Three of Britain’s leading Ebola specialists have said experimental treatments for the deadly Ebola virus must be offered to the people of West Africa, after two US aid workers were administered with the “cure” in Liberia.

The two missionaries, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, are alive and now being cared for at a specialist isolation unit in Atlanta.

Though the pair remain weak – and there is no way of knowing at this stage how much of a help the new drug has actually been – the fact that it was given to the two Americans has resulted in widespread criticism and recriminations in West Africa.

Now Peter Piot, who discovered Ebola in 1976, David Heymann, the director of the Chatham House Centre on Global Health Security and Jeremy Farrar from the Wellcome Trust have said there are in fact several drugs and vaccines under study that could be used to combat the disease.

“African governments should be allowed to make informed decisions about whether or not to use these products - for example to protect and treat healthcare workers who run especially high risks of infection,” they wrote in a joint statement.

Read more:
What is Ebola? The signs, symptoms and source
The 10 biggest threats to the world's health

The World Health Organization (WHO), “the only body with the necessary international authority” to allow such experimental treatments, “must take on this greater leadership role”, they said.

“These dire circumstances call for a more robust international response,” they added.

Almost 900 people have died from the Ebola virus across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the latest outbreak began in February this year. Some strains can have fatality rates of up to 90 per cent, though that of the current crisis appears to be around 60 per cent.

Liberia’s assistant health minister, Tolbert Nyenswah, said that the news of Dr Brantly and Ms Writebol’s treatment had “made our job very difficult” as dying patients and their relatives in Africa request the same “cure”.

Dr Nyenswah told the Wall Street Journal: “The population here is asking: 'You said there was no cure for Ebola, but the Americans are curing it?'”

The US aid workers were given ZMapp, a drug made from antibodies produced in a lab that has never gone through human trials or been approved by the US’s FDA Food and Drug Administration.

Read more:
Comment: They'd find a cure if Ebola came to London
Sierra Leone suspends football matches as outbreak continues
Atlanta hospital receives hate mail for treating aid workers
Ebola outbreak is a 'threat' to UK says Philip Hammond

Piot, Farrar and Heymann questioned why Africans were not being given the same chance. If the deadly virus was raging though wealthy countries, they said, medical agencies “would begin discussions with companies and labs developing these products and then make rapid decisions about which of them might be appropriate for compassionate use”.

“Experimental treatments shouldn't be rolled out generally without prior safety testing,” they said in their statement, issued in London late on Tuesday.

“But in the face of the critical challenge in West Africa, the WHO and Western medical agencies should be helping countries weigh the risks and benefits of limited deployment of the best (drug and vaccine) candidates to those in the greatest need, while continuously monitoring safety and efficacy.”

An electron micrograph of the Ebola virus An electron micrograph of the Ebola virus Their call for action from the World Health Organisation adds weight to the growing impetus demanding the outbreak in West Africa be brought under control, and which the UK Faculty for Public Health’s Dr John Ashton wrote about in this week’s Independent on Sunday.

On Monday the World Bank pledged up to $200 million (£120 million) in emergency funding to help Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

And though cost has been cited as one of the major restrictive factors preventing drug companies from rolling out Ebola treatments across Africa, the WHO said it “would not recommend any drug that has not gone through the normal process of licensing and clinical trials”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower