Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe often fatal illness in humans. There have been increasing outbreaks in remote villages of Central and West Africa. The natural hosts for EVD are fruit bats in the region. It is transmitted from wild animals to humans then spreads through the human population through close contact with blood, secretions, or the bodily fluids of other infected animals.
The signs and symptoms of EVD are a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Pretty common cold, right? Hence why it is difficult to detect. It gets worse. It is followed by vomiting, diarhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, internal and external bleeding, then finally death. The incubation period of the virus is from 2-21 days.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for EVD. Treatments that were given to foreign workers in the news were experimental drugs at best. They have not been clinically tested and proven to work for the general population. Contrary to popular belief, drug testing and approval for general use is a tedious process. Many drugs fail before they are available for market. Which is why the cost of new medication is severely high.
The general population’s concern and screams to mass produce “cures” is warranted. However, the process to successful create a drug that is safe and efficacious is a process. If it is not done properly and rushed, severe adverse effects could occur. Often these affects are fatal. Finding a cure for any disease state is a process of trial and error.
Imagine going to a shooting range. On your target you dump out a bag of M&M’s. All different shapes and colors on the target board. Now imagine, your gun as the “magic bullet” the “cure” for X disease state so to say. Your job is to somehow shoot ONLY the blue plain M&M’s. If you hit any other color, shape, or size it may cause an unwanted side effect.
Let’s say you accidentally hit the yellow M&M? The side effect of that is a rash. Fine, you can live with that. Now let’s say a brown M&M has a side effect of kidney failure? Now you have to weigh the risk vs benefits of your drug. Worst case scenario, you hit a red peanut M&M and it’s just game over. The side effect is death. Going through 100’s of rounds, you need to shoot all the blue M&Ms with any weapon of any caliber without harming any of the other M&MS. Take this magic bullet to the final stage. Do this over again through 1000s of targets. How many will you save? How many will you kill? What are your acceptable limits?
This is what the pharmaceutical industry has to deal with for drug testing. It is a painful process of trial and error. It applies across any disease state. Often times, more difficult as it requires more than one magic bullet for a disease.
For more information on EBOLA, please visit the WHO website. As they are continually monitoring the spread of this disease and many others globally. They are on the front lines globally against disease. They are comprised of some our best and brightest internationally.