Wednesday, October 04, 2006

NIH advertises for volunteers for Ebola study

In the September 29, 2006 issue of The Washington Blade, which serves the LGBT community, there is, on page 51, a paid ad from tne National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases, at National Institutes of Health, looking for "health adults" ages 18-50 to volunteer for a new Ebola vaccine. The ad does not say whether HIV+ volunteers can be accepted. Some may feel that the placement of the ad in such a publication is curious.

Ebola is a hemorraghic fever virus that is primarly blood and body fluid borne, but is much more communicable that HIV or hepatitis B or C. The onset is sudden and the symptons, as described in Robert Preston's book The Hot Zone, are horrific, with softening or liquefaction of body tissues and tremendous bleeding. Amazingly, some victims survive. There are variations, such as Marburg virus. They are though to have originated in Africa in other primates. There have been concerns that Ebola could mutate to an airborne form (as with "Ebola Reston" in 1989). Laurie Garrett has also written about the virus in several books and periodicals.

Ebola, as a filovirus, however, is quite different from influenza viruses, such as avian influenza, which is causing a scare. Under an electron microscope, it has the famous "shepherd's crook". Military and CDC researches consider it among the most dangerous of all potential pathogens, requiring the greatest care in handling. If one wonders why there are not comparable fears that HIV could mutate into a more contagious form (as was speculated in Robert Gallo's 1989 Virus Hunting), and a major reason is that such a mutation would probably radically change the behavior of the virus and probably make it much less lethal. This tends to happen with many viruses if they become more widespread and must adopt to a new host to survive.

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