Tag Archives: ebola

Ebola Crisis, Part II: Virus Likely to Spread to Uganda, says WHO

Most of us remember when Ebola made its way to the United States, infecting four citizens. One of them, Thomas Eric Duncan, a visitor from Liberia, ended up dying from the lethal disease. Since the scare, most have forgotten about the deadly virus and the main area it comes from.

An image of what Ebola looks like; photo from cdc.gov
An image of what Ebola looks like; photo from cdc.gov

On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the Ebola crisis has a very high chance of moving from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Uganda. However, WHO did state that the risk of Ebola spreading globally remains very low.

The reason for the rise in Ebola cases is the result of the actions of local militias. These militias have slowed down WHO and other health organizations that are making an effort to treat the outbreak that started in the Congo back in August.

Uganda, which is noted as a poor country, does have a well-organized health care system. Since the beginning of the decade, there have only been three confirmed cases of Ebola in the country, lower than the numbers in the United States.

But the Congo does not have the same benefits. A health crisis has resulted due to not only fighting, but people affected by the virus refusing treatment.

Ebola is a virus that spreads through direct contact with body fluids, normally blood. It can take weeks before symptoms and signs appear, but after that, it will only take days before a person dies from it. The only carrier of the disease that can not be affected by the illness is a fruit bat, a relatively large bat.

The craziest thing about Ebola is after a person recovers, their semen or breast milk will carry the virus for several weeks or months.

For those that are worried about the virus, do not be worried about it for now. Just keep a eye on what is going on in Africa and hope for the best for those battling the virus.

Banana “wonder drug”

Bananas are a good source of a wide range of vitamins and minerals, they can help battle depression, ward off muscle cramps, lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack.

Until recently, that’s all bananas were; it was recently discovered that bananas could provide a new weapon against viruses.

According to a recently published study by Cell, an international team of scientists, a protein found in bananas known as lectin,or BanLec, is being transformed into a medication that may someday be used to fight viral infections and diseases.

This “wonder drug” can disarm and kill off a wide variety of aggressive viruses – including hepatitis C, flu and AIDS. BanLec works by clinging to sugar molecules found of the surface of a portion of the world’s deadliest viruses and keeps these out of cells, preventing infection.

However, when scientists isolated the protein for therapeutic trials, BanLec was shown to also cause irritation and inflammation, so an international team concentrated on the protein and identified the part that brought about those side effects.

“According to a recently published study by Cell – an international team of scientists –a protein found in bananas known as lectin — or BanLec — is being transformed into a medication that may someday be used to fight viral infections and diseases.”

With some genetic tinkering, they have created a new version of BanLec called H84T –tested on mice – which maintained the proteins anti-viral properties without the unwanted immune response of irritation and inflammation.

Writing in the journal Cell, the group says it could be one of the first broad-spectrum antiviral agents to treat an assortment of viruses and infections, including HIV, hepatitis and even the common avian influenza bug.

Co-senior author David Markovitz, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, cautions that you can’t get the benefits of BanLec by eating a horde of bananas.

Markovitz says the new and improved version, a modified adaptation of the chemical found in the fruit, of BanLec must be injected.

Initially, Markovitz says, the banana protein was being researched as a microbicide, an agent that women can use before sex as a cream or gel to protect them against HIV infection.

In any case, it was shown to disarm a number of viruses, which then essentially wither away since they are not able to infect cells.

The sugar molecule that BanLec harnesses offers an interesting and unique strategy for fighting viruses, one that researchers say could be used to develop other antiviral medications.

The scientists believe the drug may even work on Ebola, as all of these viruses are covered in similar sugar molecules that BanLec clings to.

As of right now, Markovitz says there are no plans to conduct human clinical trials. And several more years of research must be conducted before BanLec can be tested in humans.

It is hoped the new medicine will become a vital ‘broad spectrum antiviral’ that could protect humanity from some of the most vicious diseases.

US response to Ebola mess: We got this

In response to the increasing need for assistance in the fight against Ebola in West Africa — already having spread through Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — President Obama has volunteered 3,000 US troops, as well as supplies. What are the implications of this surge in US lives potentially exposed to the virus?

The U.S. will pledge 3000 troops to help aid people affected by the Ebola virus. Image from worldbulletin.net
The U.S. will pledge 3000 troops to help aid people affected by the Ebola virus. Image from worldbulletin.net

First, these troops will not be going in naked . They’ll have appropriate protection before entering areas of contagion. However, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee protection as the disease has steadily been spreading despite the best efforts of West African prevention and the international assistance that has already been given. Many troops will be helping with the disposal of bodies of those who have died from Ebola; which is one of the primary means of contraction of the virus, other than the transfer of bodily fluids.

Other than disposing of bodies, the US efforts will focus on training healthcare workers and building treatment and containment facilities. This all in the hopes of creating a sufficient foundation from which the disease can be managed before it spreads further through the continent.

This humanitarian effort will divert approximately $500 million from the overseas contingency budget focused on such things as the war in Afghanistan.

Over 2,400 lives have already been claimed by this particular outbreak of the disease and will only continue to rise and spread to other areas of the world, should it not be adequately contained.

The global response is escalating due to the many lives already lost and the absence of any real vaccine or cure, causing many families to turn their hopes towards black market medicines. These are a particular concern as the main method customers of this ideology are interested in is the blood of survivors. According to CNN “blood from survivors, referred to as convalescent serum, is said to have antibodies that can fight the deadly virus.” While the World Health Organization does tentatively approve of this experiment in a cure, they’re concerned about the non-prescribed or professionally-administered version desperate patients and families are turning to. This is due to the serious risk of further illness and death that can be caused by sharing blood and the insufficient research that has gone into this particular treatment method.

While natural and other immediately terrible disasters see a great response from the global and private world, health disasters usually don’t. Hopefully, however, with the response growing, the world will soon see the end to this disaster.

Ebola: The molecular shark

In late March, an outbreak of the Ebola disease was confirmed in Guinea. With at least 84 dead and 51 more possible cases, it has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mali. This disease has a survival rate of about ten percent, yet health workers are saying we shouldn’t worry about it spreading to the US. Continue reading Ebola: The molecular shark

Monkeying around with Ebola

How likely are you to survive an Ebola infection? Not very likely, with mortality rates as high as 90 percent for certain strains of the virus.

There are no approved treatments or vaccines for the virus, but a new discovery allows scientists to predict whether a patient will react well to a vaccine currently in development. Continue reading Monkeying around with Ebola