By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
There is no vaccine or cure for the Ebola virus but the U.S. government and military sponsored research has led to the developments of a drug that increases the body’s immune system by canceling out the viral efforts at shutting it down. In other words, there may be a cure right now.
Infections of Ebola spreading through West Africa have led to more than 900 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids. More than 1,600 people have been infected so far, and 55 percent of them are said to have died from this strain of the virus (historically 90 percent).
The possible cure is an experimental drug called ZMapp. It is made by the company, Kentucky BioProcessing, who with partners, have engineered the drug from proteins of GMO tobacco plants and three mouse-derived monoclonal antibodies. The proteins are engineered to boost the immune system that the virus shuts down.
Other countries now demanding the drug be shared. The CDC said it is not likely the drug will be used to treat the current outbreak. Fifty CDC officials are flying to Africa to help. President Barack Obama has stated that he will do “everything he can.”
After being flown back from Africa, the American missionary worker, Dr. Kent Brantly, is being treated under isolation and watch at the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He has also received antibodies from a survivor of Ebola, while in Nigeria, in addition to the ZMapp procedure.
Dr.Brantly and Nancy Writebol volunteered to receive the experimental ZMapp treatments. Dr. Brantly was said to be on the verge of death, after nine days of infection but has improved after taking the drug. Writebol’s condition is also said to be improving.
ZMapp is so new that it has never gone through human trials before. Should America only treat Americans with the new drug?
The bigger picture is that this is a profound opportunity for America to be at the center stage in fighting global diseases and the proliferation of health technologies and noble humanitarian campaigns that do not involve war. In spite of the CDC doubts for the delivery of ZMapp overseas, this remains a potential challenge for Americans to rally around a benign national effort and demonstrate a moral superiority in Africa among competing nations like Russia and even China.
It comes at an ominous time when the U.S. Presidential delegation holds a summit on African security, “Peace and Regional Stability,” and “Governing the Next Generation.”
If Washington can provide a cure for the Ebola outbreak for Africa, something no other nation has done, with the exception of Canada—who is said to have had a hand in the drug as well—America will have found another powerful niche role to guide African development beyond the military advantage.
ZMapp and Ebola are just the beginning. Washington could play the world’s greatest field doctor. While there is a tremendous amount of pressure that comes with the role of world doctor, it is a role that already exists. The issue now is how will the global doctor proceed? Can it apply greater resources and strategic usage of sharing advanced medicines in a crisis?
Setting a trend of mercy into the international system is always a good thing for other states to follow. Can you imagine a global competition for charity? A charity race between states?
Eventually the U.S. medical technologies will bless the world but it would be nice if we could accelerate the process for ethical, diplomatic and regional peace and progress for this conflict. Aside from outbreaks, there are sure to be many climate change related disasters that the U.S. is in a position to offer the most assistance. Sharing civil resources during a crisis will become a necessity for Western states in the future, in order to stabilize regions before a crisis develops or to prevent one from become a pandemic.