Recent Ebola outbreak highlights need for better global response

In an invited perspective article on the Ebola outbreak under way in West Africa, Heinz Feldmann, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) emphasizes the need for scientists to make their data available to colleagues in real-time to improve the public health response to outbreaks. He cites past responses to influenza and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreaks as successful examples of global information sharing. Rapid diagnoses are key to controlling outbreaks of deadly viruses such as Ebola, for which no therapies are available. The immediate availability of viral gene sequencing data, for example, can reduce waiting times for test results and help to determine whether established test methods will work or fail.

Dr. Feldmann conducts research on Ebola and other hemorrhagic fever viruses at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Among other suggestions, he recommends that medical and public health staff in and near locations known to be endemic for Ebola be trained to assess infection risks and diagnose disease. Enhancing the capabilities of local laboratory workers would make available more rapidly by eliminating the need to ship samples to distant reference laboratories.

Dr. Feldmann and his NIAID colleague David Safronetz, Ph.D., explored this regional diagnostic approach while working with Malian health researchers and officials in April, after the nation reported 12 suspected Ebola cases. The NIAID group worked at the International Center for Excellence in Research, a partnership between NIAID and Mali's University of Bamako, where they observed isolation procedures and showed local physicians how to handle Ebola specimens and for disease. All of the suspected cases in Mali tested negative.

More information: H. Feldmann. Ebola—A Surprise in West Africa? New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1405314 (2014).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Ebola-hit Liberia delays school reopening

3 hours ago

Liberia's education ministry said on Sunday it had postponed by two weeks the reopening of the country's schools, which were closed six months ago to limit the spread of the Ebola virus.

Ebola: timeline of a ruthless killer

12 hours ago

Here are key dates in the current Ebola epidemic, the worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever which first surfaced in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

Jan 31, 2015

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

Jan 30, 2015

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.