Could some of the world’s oldest antivirals stop the spread of this deadly disease?
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Ebola virus disease (EVD) has a fatality rate of up to 90%. The virus is transmitted through direct physical contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood or other bodily fluids of infected animals or humans, and through indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
The current outbreak in West Africa is the world’s deadliest to date. More than 1200 people have died so far this year, and the WHO has declared an international health emergency. There are no effective cures; treatment is mostly palliative or supportive, minimizing the dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea that typically present with the disease.
As the world starts looking for other treatments, the Catch-22 of drug economics (no one will spend the exorbitant sums needed to run clinical trials if the product can’t be patented and turned into a huge money-maker) practically ensures that natural treatments will be ignored. But could some of our oldest natural antivirals be used at least to inhibit the transfer of the virus—or even cure it?
Silver, as we reported last year, has been used as an antimicrobial for thousands of years. It’s a powerful antibiotic, attacking all kinds of bacteria in a three-pronged attack. More and more research (study 1; study 2; study 3; study 4; study 5) is also heralding silver’s promise as a method of disinfecting water of both bacteria and viruses. Since disinfecting contaminated environments is the most effective method of halting Ebola’s spread, silver could be a most potent weapon in the battle.
Silver has also showed great promise as an antiviral, in both attacking the virus and in inhibiting transmission. So far, silver has been tested on HIV (study 1; study 2; study 3; study 4) and herpes (study 1; study 2; study 3). Silver has also been used to clear HPV warts; inhibit the replication of the hepatitis B virus; kill the H1N1 virus; fight ocular infection; and kill the tacaribe virus, which also causes hemorrhagic fever, as well as the bacteriophage viral strain.
Dr. Josepha A. Mercola notes that commonsense basics like hygiene, nutrition, vitamin D, and vitamin C are often overlooked in Ebola outbreaks. For full therapeutic impact, the vitamin C should be intravenous. Thomas E. Levy, MD, a board-certified internist and cardiologist, is particularly excited about high doses of vitamin C as a potential treatment for EVD:
To date, not a single virus has been tested that is not inactivated [killed]by a large enough dose of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Many other antioxidants have similar virucidal effects, but vitamin C appears uniquely to be of greatest potency and clinical efficacy, as its simple chemical structure allows for it to be disseminated throughout the body with little restriction.
Intravenous vitamin C (which has the advantage of concentrating the C where it is needed before the body can eliminate it) is presumably too complicated to deliver successfully in the regions where Ebola is currently raging. But silver could cure this plague before it takes hold as a pandemic. Inexpensive, plentiful, natural, and effective against all kinds of viruses and bacteria: no wonder the drug industry will not support these natural remedies!
Meanwhile, the drug industry does see a potential market for itself. All that is needed is to sidestep the usual extended and costly approval process. In August, the WHO convened an advisory panel of twelve experts to consider whether it is appropriate to test promising or innovative treatments on these Ebola patients, even though several of the drugs have had no human trials yet. The panel concluded that it is indeed ethical to use such experimental drugs in this current outbreak. This week the WHO will hold a major conference with over 100 international experts, who will discuss how best to provide access to experimental therapies for EVD.
One of the more widely known drugs on the market for Ebola, ZMapp, has shown mixed results, and the sample sizes have been extraordinarily small—perhaps as small as six patients. A ZMapp-based anti-Ebola antibody combination was used on two American missionaries who contracted the disease. Both were improved enough to be released from the Emory University Hospital, though the lead physician was more emphatic as to the role of strong, supportive care in their recovery rather than the ZMapp. A third ZMapp recipient died.
The company that makes ZMapp, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc., has received $10 million from the Department of Defense to develop the drug, which means the federal government will likely have some say in how the drug is distributed. The WHO will certainly take up the question at their September 4-5 summit, where distribution will be a major issue—despite the fact that its success rate is questionable at best.
Another experimental drug, TKM-Ebola, has been tested on monkeys and a handful of healthy human volunteers. It targets the virus’s RNA, interrupting its genetic code and preventing it from making disease-causing proteins. A small, early safety trial on a small number of human volunteers was put on hold last month when regulators requested further safety data. A US-based pharmaceutical company has developed a similar RNA treatment. In addition, scientists have been working on a number of prototype vaccines. The WHO says further trials would start soon and potential vaccines may be available in 2016.
Meanwhile, silver and intravenous C are available right now, but we don’t see the WHO getting behind them.