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Ebola Vaccine Effective in Chimps and Antibody Treatment Works

2014-10-31

Two developments in the fight against Ebola are important for everyone to be aware of:

First, there is a vaccine that has recently been repeatedly shown to be highly effective in chimpanzees and only requires human testing.  Meaning, I would think, if toxicity testing is negative, all the available residents of the three countries affected should be the first recipients of the vaccine.

Second, there is a tailored antibody treatment for the Ebola virus that is effective in the ten people in whom it has been tested so far.  Thus, if by chance you should volunteer to go to Liberia as an aid worker and be accepted, and should you catch the virus and get real sick, you can depend on your nation’s ambassador to arrange a flight home and the three doses of antibody that are required to cure you (he said, with a straight face).

These developments should make Ebola conquerable, assuming that the responsible authorities institute the correct policies and arrange for the supplies of the appropriate drugs, vaccines, and personal protective gear appropriate for the climate.  Possibly that is an over optimistic assumption.

We should, however, take the long view with things like this.  By “the long view”, I mean the view in which the survival of the individual means little in comparison to the survival of the species, which means little in comparison to the survival of life in general.

At the level of the long view, we have learned recently that the Ebola virus and the Marburg virus can be estimated to have diverged from one another on the evolutionary tree at least sixteen to twenty three million years ago.  This contradicts the previously held view that the Ebola virus is only about ten thousand years old.  For what it’s worth; it’s not what I would call “useful information” right now, but probably later some one will say, “Aha!”

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