Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Monoclonal antibody serum appears to work miracles on two physicians with Ebola
Washington Post has a detailed story by Brady Dennis and Lenny Berstein here. A company in San Diego used the tobacco plant (from farms in Kentucky) to create the matrix for the product, so it’s a good thing that tobacco has a medicinal use. (I wondered, what if marijuana somehow worked?) Dr. Brantly had deteriorated rapidly over a few hours while waiting for the serum to thaw naturally to room temperature, and says he thought he would die. His clinical improvement in just an hour after receiving the serum seems unprecedented. Since the serum worked also (although it took two doses) on the older female doctor Writebol, it seems very unlikely that the recoveries were spontaneous and coincidental.
Brantly is reported as walking with appetite returning. There would be a question as to how long his isolation continues if all symptoms resolve. They might resolve rather quickly.
There is also a question of public health policy, to develop a vaccine when it is not obviously profitable for pharmaceutical companies to do so. This, like it or not, calls for Congressional leadership (something the GOP doesn’t like). A vaccine for those who work in Africa or for people living there might be available by 2015.
There is one person from West Africa with possible symptoms being treated in isolation at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Would the CDC provide the serum for every such patient who tests positive in the US, if others develop the disease?
And it’s obvious that arguments about Obamacare got out the window. The federal government seems to be picking up the tab, as if it were Britain’s National Health Service. A default to single payer?
Vox Media has a story on what needs to be done to contain Ebola worldwide today, and it’s quite detailed, link here.
Back in the 1990s, two books created a sensation about Ebola. They were Robert Preston’s “The Hot Zone”, which I bought at a book fair in the workplace cafeteria around 1994, and Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague”. Particularly Preston’s book (which also speculated than an airborne animal virus called Ebola Reston might have started a human epidemic in 1989) stimulated public controversy. There were “jokes” at work about it, and they even called me “Ebola Bill” for buying the book.
I believe I have seen flyers for Samaritan’s Purse at local churches, including First Baptist in Washington DC.