Even as West Africa continues to struggle with the Ebola crisis, scientists at Singapore’s ASTAR institute are trying to lend a helping hand, by mapping the evolution of the virus by comparing the present day Ebola strains with the strains from the original outbreak in 1976. This will enable them to determine any changes in the epitopes, which are parts of the virus protein, to which a human antibody can bind to. This information could let us know, as to the precise mixture of antibodies which would be most effective when used in a treatment or vaccine.
ZMapp, the experimental treatment which was instrumental in saving the lives of several Ebola victims, consists of a mixture of three antibodies which was obtained from the survivors of previous Ebola outbreaks. However, these may not be as effective in the present day scenario, if the epitopes have undergone modifications. Hence, the A*Star team headed by Dr. Sebastian Maurer-stroh, from the A*Star Bioinformatics Institute is working with scientists from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology and the San Diego Supercomputer Centre, both in the US in creating a “mixture of antibodies” that will work best in the current crisis.
WHO and scientists world over believe, that passive immunization by extracting antibodies from the blood of survivors is the most promising option available now. However, it would take years to develop a drug based on this
On August 8, the WHO declared this year’s Ebola epidemic as a global public health emergency, Currently the death toll of Ebola is increasing at an alarming rate, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting that the virus could potentially infect 1.4 million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of January.
Total Case Count: 6263
Total Deaths: 2917
Laboratory Confirmed Cases: 3487
(Statistics as on September 25, 2014; www.cdc.gov)