The outbreak in three West African countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – has sickened more than 1,300 people and more than 700 have died since March. In the four decades since the Ebola virus was first identified in Africa, treatment hasn’t changed much. There are no licensed drugs or vaccines for the deadly disease. Here are some questions and answers on treatments:


For one thing, Ebola is hard to work with. The virus doesn’t grow well in petri dishes and experiments can only be done in the relatively few labs with the highest security measures.

And while Ebola is lethal, it’s rare. Outbreaks are unpredictable, giving doctors few chances to test new treatments. While the current epidemic is the largest recorded, the number of people sickened by Ebola is small compared to the number killed by other diseases like malaria or dengue. Much of the funding for Ebola research is from governments that worry about the virus being used in a bioterror attack.


There are about a half dozen Ebola drugs and vaccines in development, several of which have received funding from the U.S. One drug developed by the U.S. Army has shown promising results when tested in monkeys.

“We think this may work because of the animal models but until you do the studies in humans, you just don’t know,” said Fred Hayden, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, who was not involved in the research.


Scientists are split on whether or not it is a good idea to try experimental drugs.

Some say the severity of the outbreak may make it necessary. But other experts maintain that it’s unethical to use treatments or vaccines that haven’t been properly tested, and warn the results could be disastrous.

– The Associated Press

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