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Scientists develop therapies to protect humans from Ebola virus



Ebola virus

• Sierra Leone celebrates eradication of EVD
• WHO launches guidance on premature babies’ survival 

SCIENTISTS have made major breakthroughs in the fight to eradicate the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and improve the survival chances of premature babies with the discovery of anti-viral-based therapies that have the potential to protect humans from the deadly virus and the launch of new guidance on preterm care by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

United Kingdom (UK) physicians, for the first time, in a report, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, described a case-series of eight British healthcare workers who were evacuated to the Royal Free Hospital in London, UK, after possible accidental exposure to Ebola virus in Sierra Leone between January and March 2015.

Four of the healthcare workers were considered to have been at significant risk of exposure to Ebola from needle-stick injuries and were given post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) with the antiviral drug favipiravir (Toyama Chemical Company), with or without monoclonal antibodies (similar to ZMapp).

The other four workers had exposure that was not the result of a sharp injury, and were judged to be at lower risk. They were not given PEP, but were managed by watchful waiting.

Lead author, Dr. Michael Jacobs, from the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK, said: “It is possible that none of these healthcare workers were infected with Ebola virus.

Therefore, we cannot know for sure whether or not post-exposure prophylaxis prevented the onset of Ebola-virus disease. “Two of the workers had needle-stick injuries contaminated with fresh blood from patients with Ebola virus disease putting them at very high risk of transmission. “We are excited to publish the first report of an antiviral-based post-exposure treatment against Ebola-virus infection in humans.

We believe this work justifies further study of this post-exposure treatment to protect healthcare workers accidentally exposed to Ebola virus in the field.

What is more, a similar approach to treat household contacts of Ebola cases may work to prevent a major route of spread during an epidemic.” Also, Sierra Leone had on Monday, August 24, 2015, celebrated an important milestone.

For the first time in more than a year, there are no people being treated for Ebola virus disease and no confirmed cases of Ebola in the country. Adama Sankoh, an Ebola survivor, was released from the Makeni Ebola treatment unit on August 24, 2015.

Surrounded by healthcare workers singing, dancing and clapping, Adama Sankoh, a palm oil trader, was released from the Makeni Ebola treatment unit.

In the ceremony held to mark the final Ebola case, the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, described Madame Sankoh’s release as “the beginning of the end of Ebola.”

Meanwhile, the WHO’s new guidance on interventions to improve preterm birth outcomes has been launched to help prevent the complications and consequences of preterm birth.

Adding to efforts worldwide to further reduce child mortality, the guidance offers recommendations on interventions, which can be provided to the mother when preterm birth is imminent and to the preterm infant after birth, with the aim of improving outcomes for preterm infants.

In response to WHO member-states’ request for guidance on controversial areas of practice, the new guidance is based on current research evidence and was prepared by an international group of experts from all WHO regions.

The guidance updates the relevant sections of previous WHO publications such as managing complications of pregnancy and childbirth: a guide for midwives and doctors (published in 2000) and pocket book of hospital care for children (published in 2013).

The WHO recommendations on interventions to improve preterm birth outcomes will be useful for people working across the health sector, from healthcare workers who directly provide care to pregnant women and preterm infants, to healthcare policy-makers and programmers, as well as those working on the development of job aids and training tools for healthcare workers.

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