Via the Victoria Times Colonist, a report by Helen Branswell of The Canadian Press: This should be the last Ebola outbreak without a treatment, Canadian expert says. Excerpt:
A Canadian scientist who recently returned from the front lines of the West African Ebola outbreak says he hopes this is the last time the world has to combat the virus without specific treatments or protective vaccines.
Dr. Gary Kobinger, chief of special pathogens at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, suggested this outbreak — the largest on record — will speed efforts to get emergency use approvals to employ some of the experimental vaccines and therapies in future Ebola epidemics.
"My really, really deepest wish — and I don't want to call this a dream, because it's not a dream — is that there won't be another outbreak like this. (That) this is the last one. Next time, we'll be ready," Kobinger said in an interview Monday.
But Kobinger agreed with others in his field who have argued that it would be unwise to use these untested tools this time, saying the Ebola vaccines and drugs must go through Phase 1 clinical trials in people before they could be used in an outbreak setting. Phase 1 trials involve giving a drug or vaccine to a small number of healthy adult volunteers to ensure that it is safe for human use.
"These are all experimental drugs that have not met the requirements ... even for a Phase 1 (trial) right now in humans. So they have to pass all the toxicity (tests), they have to pass the safety trials," he said.
A case that serves as a reminder of the importance of clearing these regulatory hurdles involves an Ebola drug being developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation of Burnaby, B.C. Their product was one of the Ebola treatments considered to be furthest along in the developmental pipeline.
The company was recently told to suspend its Phase 1 trial by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is demanding more information about a reaction experienced by one of the subjects in the study. On Monday, Tekmira said it was preparing its response to the FDA's clinical "hold" letter.
Kobinger and two other researchers from the Winnipeg laboratory — Allen Grolla and Dr. Jim Strong — returned late last week after nearly a month in Guinea and Sierra Leone, working as part of the international efforts to contain the prolonged outbreak. Grolla and Strong are both specialists in diagnostics for special pathogens, the term used by laboratories to describe deadly viruses such as Ebola and the related Marburg virus.
The team was replaced by a second trio from the Winnipeg lab and plans are already underway to send a third to spell them off when their month-long mission is done.
The Canadian team spent much of its mission at Kailahun, in eastern Sierra Leone, near where the country intersects with Guinea and Liberia. The team set up and operated a laboratory there, testing people suspected of being infected with the virus.