Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) ethics panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention. They also note that ” a specific treatment or vaccine would be a potent asset to counter the virus.”

Image/CDC
Image/CDC

Ironically, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory a couple of days later warning consumers about fraudulent products sold online claiming to prevent or treat the Ebola virus.

Some recent reports talk of different therapies entering Nigeria and West Africa for the treatment and prevention of Ebola Virus Disease and I can’t help but wonder, is this what they meant by “experimental” treatments?

Nigerian health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu said a drug called “Nanosilver” arrived in the country for the treatment of EVD.  Even the “brains” behind the treatment wrote a letter to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan over the availability of the ‘cure’.

According to PointBlankNews.comthe experimental drug is a donation from a Nigerian scientist who was concerned about threat of Ebola in his home country.  According to the founder of Nanosilver “through the use of small doses (½ teaspoonful three times per day) of 10 PPM Nano silver administered to Ebola victims, contacts and potential contacts, Ebola and other contagious diseases can be eliminated as the deadly scourges that they currently are. This potentially beneficial nutrient therapy is highly cost-effective. Nano Silver is inexpensive”.

However, not everyone is so enthused about the use of the nanoparticle in treating Ebola.  Director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Andrew Maynard writes:

“Is the use of nano silver a legitimate application of on unlicensed treatment, or cynical exploitation of a mounting humanitarian crisis?  Having studied and written about the biological impacts of nano silver for some years now, I must confess I was surprised by the Nigerian decision.

“Silver has been used as an antimicrobial agent for thousands of years – the Romans used to use silverware to reduce food and drink-borne infection.  More recently, nanoparticles of silver have been used in everything from food containers to socks in an attempt to imbue them with microbe-killing properties.

“When used in the right way, the material certainly does exhibit antimicrobial properties.  But there’s a massive jump from odor-resistant socks to curing Ebola patients.”

Given the commercial interests involved here and the paucity of evidence for nano-silver being in any way an appropriate treatment for Ebola, the wisdom of treating patients in Nigeria with the material has to be questioned on both medical and ethical grounds. There may be future treatments for infectious diseases that use nanoscale silver and other engineered nanomaterials.  But this does not seem the time to be cynically jumping on the Ebola bandwagon to promote products that may offer false hope, but little else.

It was also learned today that a famous and rich “faith healer” will be sending 4,000 bottles of his holy water to Sierra Leone, as part of an aid package. The Nigerian “preacher”, TB Joshua claims the anointing water can also heal problems including infertility and cancer tumors. Oddly enough, someone claiming to represent Sierra Leone’s high commission, accepted the donation. 

Does anyone else see this as irresponsible?

Speaking of  irresponsible, how about the several people who died and were hospitalized for excessive consumption of salt?  There is speculation and rumor that salt and hot water solution cures the deadly viral disease.  

Fortunately last week, The Nigerian Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, debunked rumors that bathing with hot water and salt solution can be used to prevent Ebola virus infection.

The WHO says there are no known cures for the EVD, and products claiming to treat it can be dangerous.

This is a very serious outbreak and health officials on the ground are already stretched to the limit and exhausted. I can’t believe the things I mentioned above are going to help matters in an already chaotic, mistrustful and dangerous situation.

Just a thought…