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Hope for New Ebola Treatment

International public health officials are going into the unknown to stop the spread of Ebola. They've seen more than 1000 people in West Africa die after being infected with the virus.

Now, they've approved experimental treatments to try to stop it. NHK WORLD's Takafumi Terui reports.

Officials at the World Health Organization have made a decision they hope will contain the outbreak. They've authorized the use of experimental drugs.

"There was unanimous agreement among the experts that inspects the special circumstance of this Ebola outbreak. It is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatment or prevention."
Marie-Paule Kieny / WHO Assistant Director-General

Researchers at pharmaceutical firms in the US and Canada are working to develop treatments.

Doctors in the US used one drug on two Americans infected with the virus. And the patients are recovering.

But medical staff in Spain used the same drug on a missionary who was working at a hospital in Liberia. He died.

Researchers say the medicine works by reinforcing a patient's immune system.

"It's spring loaded like a spear fishing rod and in an infection it will uncoil and drive itself in the human cell. These parts here lock the machine together and keep it from infecting the cell and while they are attached they alert the immune system of the destruction of the infected cells."
Erica Ollman Saphire / The Scripps Research Institute

Researchers say supplies of the drug are limited. So WHO officials are trying to figure out which patients should get priority.

But now, they have another problem on their hands. Medical workers have little time for treating other diseases. Some worry this will lead to epidemics of other infectious diseases including malaria.

Canada's Health Minister said her government will donate as many as 1000 doses of an experimental vaccine to WHO.


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