Health experts have met to discuss an end to killer virus Ebola, with two vaccines and eight experimental treatments on the table.
No fully tested and approved treatments or vaccines exist for Ebola, which has killed more than 1 900 people in West Africa since the beginning of the year.
In a bid to stem the spread, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has condoned the use of experimental drugs, and experts in Geneva have been discussing which treatments were in the pipeline and how quickly they could be made available to the public.
In a working document for the closed-door meeting, the agency listed eight potential therapies, including the experimental drug ZMapp, which has been given to a handful of frontline health workers who have contracted Ebola; three of whom have recovered and two of whom have died.
Two experimental vaccines for Ebola, which transmits through contact with infected bodily fluids, were also listed.
“None are clinically proven,” the WHO stressed, adding that “while extraordinary measures are now in place to accelerate the pace of clinical trials, new treatments or vaccines are not expected for widespread use before the end of 2014”.
“Until then, only small quantities of up to a few ... doses/treatments will be available,” it said, pointing out that in normal circumstances, the clinical evaluation period for new drugs and vaccines can take up to a decade.
Addressing the outbreak
The experts meeting Thursday, including policy makers, ethicists, clinicians, researchers and patient representatives from affected countries also aimed to facilitate contacts between countries affected by the disease and countries producing treatments.
Global health experts have stepped up warnings in recent days that world leaders need to do more to address the outbreak, which is most prominent in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“The current West African Ebola outbreak is unprecedented in size, complexity and the strain it has imposed on health systems,” the WHO said in a statement.
“There is intense public interest in, and demand for, anything that offers hope of definitive treatment.”
The outbreak of Ebola, transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has sparked alarm throughout the region but also further afield, with scientists scrambling to come up with treatment. – AFP