Health

Ebola outbreak: no treatments proven so far, WHO says

The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun assessing more than 120 potential treatments for Ebola patients, it said on Friday, but so far has found none that definitely work, and some that definitely do not.

The apparent effect of ZMapp or other drugs that have been tried may simply be a result of good care

Health workers talk at an Ebola treatment centre in Bamako, Mali, on Thursday. The medical charity Doctors Without Borders plans to start trials next month of two drugs and blood plasma from Ebola survivors. (Joe Penney/Reuters)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun assessing more than 120 potential treatments for Ebola patients, it said on Friday, but so far has found none that definitely work, and some that definitely do not.

One drug used to treat HIV patients, lamivudine, had started to catch on as a potential Ebola treatment after one doctor used it and others followed, WHO scientist Martin Friede told a news conference.

But the WHO examined the evidence and found lamivudine had no effect on Ebola and should not be administered.

And despite the apparent success of ZMapp, the U.S.-made drug that grabbed headlines when two American aid workers with Ebola were given it and recovered, it has also not yet been proven to be effective, he added.

The apparent effect of ZMapp or other drugs that have been tried may simply be a result of the good care that the patients had received, or the fact that they were well-nourished before they fell sick, or because of other medicines, Friede said.

"Because these patients received multiple drugs — many of them received two, three or sometimes even four drugs — we cannot conclude anything," he said. "We can't conclude that the drugs work. That is the conclusion."

The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres or Doctors Without Borders plans to start trials next month of the drugs brincidofovir, from the U.S. firm Chimerix, and favipiravir, from Japan's Fujifilm , and to see how well blood plasma from Ebola survivors may work in curing those still infected.

Other potential treatments touted in the West African countries where Ebola has hit hardest include silver, selenium, green tea and Nescafé.

"It's understandable that the populations are willing to try anything, but there are a lot of charlatans out there who are trying to sell what in the old days would be called snake oil," Friede said.

The WHO aims to clarify things by pooling knowledge about the various potential treatments and publishing a list showing which ones should definitely be ruled out.

Also on Friday, the WHO said there have been at least 5,177 reported Ebola deaths and 14,413 cases in eight countries as of Nov. 11.

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are the most affected countries.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released six reports on Ebola cases in Liberia and the U.S. on Friday. The agency noted preliminary signs of progress in containing the outbreak in Liberia but concluded more intensive efforts are needed to continue the trend.

With files from CBC News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now