Recent Ebola outbreak highlights need for better global response

May 7, 2014, NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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.

Explore further: Death toll in Ebola outbreak rises to 121 (Update)

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

Related Stories

Death toll in Ebola outbreak rises to 121 (Update)

April 15, 2014
An outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has been linked to the deaths of more than 120 people, according to the latest World Health Organization count.

Ebola toll rises to 74 in Guinea

April 29, 2014
Guinea said Tuesday 74 people had died so far this year in one of the worst ever outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

Mali remains free of deadly Ebola epidemic

April 15, 2014
Mali said on Tuesday it was clear of the Ebola epidemic suspected to be behind around 130 deaths this year in Guinea and Liberia.

Ebola-linked deaths in West Africa rise over 100

April 8, 2014
Officials say more than 100 people have died in an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, where the disease may have infected as many as 175 people.

Mali reports three suspected Ebola cases (Update)

April 4, 2014
Mali said Thursday it had detected three suspected victims of Ebola, the deadly disease that has killed 84 people in Guinea.

Eight cases of Ebola turn up in Guinea's capital

March 28, 2014
Health officials in the West African nation of Guinea say they're now treating eight cases of Ebola in the capital.

Recommended for you

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

0 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.