Stopping Ebola before it becomes a pandemic

The good news is that there are a number of promising therapeutics that have already shown activity against Ebola, from an immune-based drug called ZMapp that was given to seven infected patients, to at least two vaccines that appear ready for large-scale testing. ZMapp showed remarkable efficacy in bolstering the immune system to directly attack the virus in monkey experiments and may also have helped several Ebola sufferers recover.

There are also drugs targeting cancer called “kinase inhibitors” that show potency against the Ebola virus. One advantage of drugs working at the host level—on the person not the virus—is that theoretically the drugs can still work even if the virus mutates. This is in contrast to a vaccine that relies on targeting certain markers on the virus surface that can change as Ebola mutates.

Yet too many public-health officials still believe that they can solve the crisis with tried-and-true methods to contain an outbreak that prioritize manpower over technology. Groups like the World Health Organization have been wrong at every turn in responding to the Ebola outbreak earlier this year. We can’t take the chance that they may again be miscalculating.

In light of the global threat there should be an intensive effort to find a therapeutic.