Experimental Treatments that Could Help Stop Ebola

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal officials have confirmed that medical teams have given two Ebola-infected nurses from Dallas experimental treatments to help them fight the deadly virus that has already killed 4,555 people, mainly in West Africa.

While testifying before a congressional panel on Thursday, Dr. Luciana Borio, assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism policy for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said “every Ebola patient in the U.S. has been treated with at least one investigational product.”

Two nurses from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas were diagnosed with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who contracted the disease before arriving in the U.S.

Duncan died on Oct. 8 making him the first person to die from Ebola in the U.S. The ongoing worst-ever Ebola outbreak has pushed doctors and health care officials to search for new or experimental treatments.

Several companies have products in development aimed at combating the virus that can lead to a deadly hemorrhagic fever. Before the outbreak, doctors generally used supportive care, including intravenous fluids and oxygen to help patients.

While every U.S. patient and many patients from European countries have received some kind of experimental treatment, the effectiveness of these treatments remains unclear without more rigorous scientific study.

To better understand how doctors can approach treating the deadly disease, here is a list of some experimental treatments in the works:


An antiviral drug called brincidofovir was used to treat Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., and Ashoka Mukpo, an American freelance cameraman who contracted the virus while on assignment in Liberia.

Brincidofovir is a modified version of an existing drug called cidofovir and works by inhibiting the replication of a virus, according to Chimerix, a pharmaceutical company based in North Carolina.

The medication is experimental and before the outbreak had not been tested to combat Ebola in humans or primates, according to Chimerix.

Duncan died on Oct. 8 after being hospitalized at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for over a week. Mukpo was transported from Liberia to the biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical center, where he remains in isolation.


The most well-known of the experimental treatments was used on the first two American health workers to be diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia.

Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were the first humans to be given the drug, which had previously been tested only in primates, according to health officials. The drug is a mix of three synthetic antibodies that can attack the structure of the Ebola virus.

This cocktail of antibodies specifically attack the virus' spike-like protrusions used to invade cells and replicate. It remains unclear whether the drug helped the patients get over their infection due to the small number of people given the drug.

Of the seven people known to have been given ZMapp, five survived the virus.

In August, Mapp Pharmaceuticals announced the supply of ZMapp had been exhausted and that it would take weeks to months to manufacture more of the medication.


One component of ZMapp has been used to help infected patients in Spain and Norway fight the virus. Called ZMab, the drug consists of a cocktail of three mouse antibodies developed to fight the virus.

In theory the antibodies will give a patient's immune system a head start against the virus and a chance to create their own antibodies and fight off the virus.

Convalescent Serum

Doctors have also tried an older method of treatment called “convalescent serum,” which involves giving an infected patient plasma from another patient who has recovered. In theory, that surviving patient will have developed antibodies that can help the infected patient fight off the virus.

In the U.S., Brantly has donated plasma to at least three patients, Dr. Rick Sacra, Nina Pham and Mukpo. The serum can also be a limited option since a donor and recipient must have a matching or compatible blood type.

Since Brantly is blood type A+, his plasma could not be used to help Duncan, whose blood type was B+, according to his family.

While there was no hard evidence that the plasma donation could help a patient with Ebola, Dr. Phillip Smith, who treated Sacra as the head of the biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical Center, said it was a fairly safe procedure and there was a chance it provided Sacra critical time to allow his immune system to fight off the Ebola virus.

"We're hoping it [would] jump-start his immunity. To survive [Ebola] you have to build up enough antibodies to [fight the virus]," Smith told reporters. "We were hoping to buy him some time, to give his immune system time to battle the disease."


The pharmaceutical company Tekmira, based in Canada, was the second experimental Ebola therapy to be used in the U.S. after the ZMapp supply was exhausted.

Sacra was given a dose of the Tekmira drug, TKM-Ebola, when he arrived in Nebraska for treatment earlier this month, doctors said.

Thomas Geisbert, a virologist studying Ebola at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, worked on the production of TKM-Ebola and said that the medication works by targeting a specific region of the virus' genetic material and preventing it from making more copies of itself.

"It interferes with the virus genetic blueprint," Geisbert explained.

The experimental drug, which was partially funded by the Department of Defense's Threat Reduction Agency, was tested extensively in primates and it was approved for phase one of human trials this January by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Sarepta's Ebola Anti-Viral Medication

One other option for doctors will be a drug designed by the Massachusetts-based Sarepta Therapeutics.

Chris Garabedian, president and CEO of Sarepta, said the drug works by targeting the protein responsible for replicating the Ebola virus in the host. In primate studies, the survival rate for subjects treated with the medication was between 60 to 80 percent, according to Garabedian. The drug was developed originally due to a contract with the Department of Defense.

However, there are just 25 doses currently ready for immediate use, according to a spokesperson for Sarepta. There is material for another 100 doses, but that material is not yet ready and would take months before it would be ready for use in patients.

Biocryst Pharmaceuticals' BCX4430

One other drug is being developed by a North Carolina-based pharmaceutical company collaborating with the National Institutes of Health.

The antiviral drug BCX4430 could be used to treat different kinds of hemorrhagic fever including Ebola, according to Biocryst Pharmaceuticals.

The Ebola drug attempts to stop the virus by targeting a key enzyme in the virus, according to the company's website.

The drug will start the first phase of human trials later this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Snail Slime Sliding into Skin Care Products

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Just as lipstick contains fish scales, and bird droppings are in spa facials, cosmetics manufacturers are now including snail slime as the latest oddity ingredients.

Making its way from Korea, topical snail gel is forecast to be the newest fad in skin care, says Cindy Kim and Alicia Yoon, co-founders of, an e-commerce site providing snail gel products to U.S. consumers.

“Snail gel began with the ancient Greeks and was later rediscovered by Chilean farmers who noticed their hands were softer after touching snail secretion,” Yoon says. “Scientists have done a great job discovering the benefits of the filtrate and it has been trending in Korea over the last five to seven years.”

Now that it’s crossing over, U.S. consumers are wondering how the bizarre ingredient makes its way from slithering insects to skin care products. To grab the goop, scientists collect what lab-bred snails leave behind and process it into a powdery substance. This substance is what goes into the manufactured skin care products.

“No snails are hurt in the process,” Kim says.

But as peculiar as it sounds, the benefits of snail gel may outweigh the cringe-factor.

“When people hear ‘snail cream,’ they automatically become grossed out,” Kim says. “But once they open up the jar they smell it, feel it, and discover it’s lightweight and completely different than they thought.”

In addition to a surprisingly pleasant texture, snail secretion filtrate contains natural acids and elastin that’ll improve appearance and protect skin from future damage, Kim and Yoon told ABC News.

The extract is also billed as having positive effects on acne scarring, acne prevention, dryness and hyperpigmentation. Daily application of topical products containing snail secretion is also shown to significantly reduce fine lines and wrinkles, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology.

Researchers gathered 25 participants experiencing moderate to severe facial photodamage. One side of the subjects’ faces were treated with snail secretion, while the other side was treated with a placebo for a 12-week period.

“A significant reduction was noted in fine lines, deep wrinkles, as well as elasticity,” the study concluded. “Dryness and roughness resolved in all patients by day 90 as well.”

Kim cites her customers as evidence of the secretion's effectiveness.

“We’ve gotten a lot of testimonials from customers that have had issues with acne and wrinkles and have seen improvements in their skin’s appearance since using snail gel products,” she says. “It’s been one of our best sellers on the site.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


The Way You Walk Can Affect Your Mood

iStock/Thinkstock(KINGSTON, Ontario) -- The way you feel can alter the way you walk. There's no huge revelation there. However, a new study out of Queen's University in Ontario suggests that the opposite is true as well, that is, a certain style of walking can also affect one’s mood.

After showing participants a list of positive and negative words, researchers had them walk on a treadmill and manipulated the participants in such a way that they either walked with a bit of a bounce or with shoulders slumped over.

Later, the subjects were told to write down as many words from a list as they could remember.  Invariably, those who walked in a depressed manner compiled mainly negative words, which the researchers took to mean that walking like a sad sack could actually bring down a person’s mood.

Study co-author Nikolaus Troje says that's an indicator of the vicious cycle clinically depressed people often find themselves in, that is, they usually conjure up more bad memories than good ones and consequently that makes them feel even worse.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


People Still Work with the Flu, Even If It Hurts Productivity

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Although Ebola is on everyone’s mind these days, health care professionals contend a more immediate and likely concern is the onset of the flu season.

Staple's Annual Flu Survey says that coming to work sick with the flu is more harmful to job productivity than a security breach, a product issue or even a natural disaster.

Yet, in spite of all the recommendations that people should stay home when they have the flu, six in ten still trudge into work anyway.

The survey revealed that 40 percent come to the office because their workloads are so demanding while about a third say their boss appreciates the fact that they put their job ahead of their health.

However, there are signs that attitudes are changing, albeit, somewhat slowly. The number of those who will work with the flu is actually lower than it’s been in five years. About one in four explain that productivity does go down when workers are sick and just over a third say that their personal productivity when they feel ill is about half of what it normally is.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Speed Diets Just as Effective as Losing Weight Gradually

Stockbyte/Thinktsock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- For years, dieters have been warned that if they attempt to lose weight as rapidly as possible, they run the risk of putting the pounds back on just as quickly. The recommended method then is gradual weight loss…or is it?

Researchers at the University of Melbourne say it’s all a myth, claiming they’ve proved it in an experiment involving 200 obese people. Half of the test subjects went on a 36-week weight-loss program, consuming 500 fewer calories daily than their regular diet.  The other half went on a 12-week diet in which they could only eat 450-800 calories daily.

Not surprisingly, 81 percent of those on the rapid-loss weight plan lost 12.5 percent of their total body fat while 50 percent of the participants on the gradual plan shed the same amount.

Afterwards, everyone was put on a three-year weight-maintenance diet. By the end, participants in both groups each regained 71 percent of the body fat they lost.

In an accompanying commentary, the authors wrote, “For weight loss, a slow and steady approach does not win the race, and the myth that rapid weight loss is associated with rapid weight regain is no more true than Aesop's fable.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Texas Nurse Says Hospital Should Be 'Ashamed' of Ebola Response

Will Montgomery(DALLAS) -- A Dallas nurse said Thursday that the administrators of the hospital where two colleagues contracted Ebola should be “ashamed” that they asked the women to “undertake this huge, monumental task” of treating an Ebola patient without the proper equipment and training.

Brianna Aguirre, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, told ABC News she was left “devastated” by the hospital administration’s response to the infection of two nurses, who treated an Ebola patient.

Aguirre said she never received any Ebola-response education until after an infected patient was admitted, and the designated personal protective equipment used in the isolation ward left her neck exposed.

“They want to blame her for getting sick, when she was never provided the right supplies,” Aguirre said of infected nurse Nina Pham. “I’m devastated for my hospital and my future there.”

Aguirre described to ABC News a situation of “extreme chaos” in the isolation ward, where Ebola-infected patient Thomas Eric Duncan was treated.

Aguirre entered the ward only after Duncan’s death and said she had to ask for a mop and start cleaning the floors with bleach herself when she realized no one from housekeeping was allowed to come in and clean the floors.

“The nurses were throwing their hands up and saying this is unbelievable,” she said of the isolation ward.

Aguirre also said the protocols from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were confusing and not clear. When Aguirre was given personal protective equipment that left her neck exposed, she was horrified.

“We were told, ‘You take our guidelines and you do with it what you will,’” said Aguirre of CDC guidelines. “You make a system that will effectively make this unit run.”

Aguirre said in order to take her equipment off without contaminating herself, a co-worker had to direct her to take tape off her neck without touching any of the exposed skin.

“This is what makes me so upset right here,” Aguirre said, pointing at a photo of a health worker at Texas Health Presbyterian in personal protective gear. “Her neck is hanging out. Her neck is exposed. That is exactly what...I was not okay with it. I opposed it and I was very vocal.”

Aguirre also treated infected nurse Nina Pham at the hospital before she was confirmed to have Ebola. When Aguirre learned Pham was found positive for Ebola, she said she had a “mental breakdown.”

“I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t talk and couldn’t move,” Aguirre said.

Now that she has interacted with an Ebola patient, Aguirre said she is self-monitoring and constantly taking her temperature.

“I’m obviously anxious,” said Aguirre. “I’ve been having moments of time where I feel queasy. I take my temperature every half-hour.”

She has also had to keep her two children from school because other students are so afraid they could be infectious.

“The reality is people are scared,” she said. “I can’t send them to school with the scrutiny that they’re going to be looked at as an infectious person.”

Two nurses, Nina Pham, 26, and Amber Vinson, 29, were infected after they treated Duncan in the isolation ward at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Duncan died on Oct. 8.

The National Nurses Union said that they "could not be more proud of Briana, are grateful for her contacting us, and join with nurses and the public everywhere in praying for her safety.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


US Has Capacity for 11 Ebola Patients at Specialized Hospitals

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though there is no plan yet to move all Ebola patients to specialized biocontainment facilities, only seven spots at these facilities remain open in the United States.

Health officials have said again and again that any hospital should be able to treat Ebola patients, but the two nurses diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas in recent days have been moved from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital -- where they contracted Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan -- to specialized hospitals with biocontainment units.

There are four hospitals with biocontainment facilities in the United States, and they have 11 beds in all, officials told ABC News. Four of those beds are currently being occupied by Ebola patients.

Dallas nurse Nina Pham, 26, was diagnosed with Ebola on Sunday and is expected to be moved to the Special Clinical Studies Unit of the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. This facility has two specialized beds, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told Congress Thursday afternoon.

Amber Vinson, 29, the other Dallas nurse to contract Ebola from Duncan, was diagnosed with Ebola on Wednesday and moved to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, later that night. Emory has three beds in its biocontainment unit.

Freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo is currently being treated at Nebraska Medical Center, which has 10 specialized beds. But hospital officials told ABC News that it has the capacity to handle only up to three patients at a time.

The final hospital with a specialized biocontainment unit is St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Montana, which has the capacity to handle three patients. It is treating no Ebola patients at this time.

Once these spots run out, Ebola patients will be treated where they are, and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be dispatched to help care for them and make sure precautions are taken to ensure that no one else contracts the deadly virus, said CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Ebola Patient's Fiancee Gets Hospital Apology for His Death

Will Montgomery(DALLAS) -- The hospital that cared for the first man diagnosed with Ebola in the United States called his fiancee Thursday to apologize for not being able to save him.

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas called Louise Troh, the fiancee of Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who died on Oct. 8. He is the only person to die of Ebola in the United States.

"This official said the hospital was 'deeply sorry' for the way this tragedy played out," Troh said in a statement. "I am grateful to the hospital for this personal call. I am grateful to God that this leader reached out and took responsibility for the hospital's actions. Hearing this information will help me as I mourn Eric's death."

Duncan arrived in Dallas from Liberia on Sept. 20 and went to the hospital on Sept. 26 with a 103-degree fever. He told a nurse he had recently been in Liberia but was sent home with antibiotics and told to take Tylenol for his pain, which he said was severe. He returned in an ambulance two days later when his symptoms worsened and was later isolated and diagnosed with Ebola.

Some members of Duncan's family said his treatment wasn't "fair."

Troh, however, said Thursday, "It is my position that God is the judge of others and their actions, and vengeance is not mine to demand. God is the judge, and God will take care of me."

Two nurses who cared for Duncan contracted Ebola and were diagnosed with the virus this week. Nina Pham, 26, will be moved to the National Institutes for Health's facility for continued care Thursday night, and Amber Vinson, 29, arrived at Emory University Hospital Wednesday night.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Frontier Airlines Seeks Passengers on Same Plane as Ebola-Infected Nurse

WEWS(NEW YORK) -- Frontier Airlines is searching for passengers from at least five different flights who flew on the same plane as an Ebola-infected nurse from Dallas.

The airline announced that it was reaching out to passengers who traveled on the same plane as Amber Vinson. They also said the plane was out of service as they replace seat covers and carpet in the middle of the aircraft, where Vinson was sitting.

Vinson, 29, was infected with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan earlier this month. She was isolated and diagnosed with Ebola on Oct. 14.

A day before being diagnosed, Vinson flew on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. The plane was cleaned after Vinson’s flight.

The following day the plane was used for at least five different commercial flights, including a return trip to Cleveland, where it was cleaned again.

Frontier Airlines has not clarified why they are reaching out to passengers and did not provide specifics to ABC News.

The plane is scheduled to return to service in the next several days.

Before flying from Cleveland, Vinson had reportedly called U.S. Centers for Disease Control personnel to report she had an elevated temperature of 99.5. The temperature was below the 100.4 reading that would designate a fever. She was not told that she could not fly on a commercial airliner.

She arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital the following day with a fever.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Dallas Hospital Staff Had No Ebola Training, Official Says

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Health care workers in the Dallas hospital that treated a patient who died from Ebola and then treated two nurses who contracted the disease never received training on how to treat Ebola patients and avoid spreading the highly contagious disease, a top hospital official said at a Congressional hearing Thursday.

Dr. Daniel Varga said that, even though guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were sent to the emergency department at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in late July, there was no follow-up training ordered for the staff. Less than two months later, the hospital staff sent a man with Ebola home with a fever even though he was likely contagious at the time.

Varga is one of the panel of top American health officials who testified in Congress Thursday at a hearing on the federal government's response to Ebola cases in the United States.

"People are scared," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "People's lives are at stake, and the response so far has been unacceptable."

During the hearing, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said that one of the infected nurses did not violate any rules by boarding a commercial airliner the day before she was diagnosed with Ebola.

Frieden said that while nurse Amber Vinson, 29, was in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died of Ebola, she had worn personal protective equipment and she did not need to have her movement restricted.

Frieden said that Vinson did contact the CDC before flying back to Dallas.

“I have not seen the transcript of the conversation,” Frieden said. “My understanding is that she reported no symptoms to us.”

Representatives from the House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned the panel about a host of issues including proper personal protective equipment, the possibility that dogs can transmit Ebola, parental concerns about sending children to public schools, and the prospect of a travel ban from west Africa.

Frieden said the CDC has "discussed the travel issue" with the White House, but would not confirm whether or not a ban has been ruled out.

The CDC and the Obama administration have repeatedly said that banning flights would not stop the spread of the disease in Africa and would only make it harder for authorities to track potentially infected individuals because they would find different ways into the country without proper screening.

He said there are "approximately" 100 to 150 travelers who arrive in America on a daily basis who started their journeys in the Ebola "hot zones."

"There will not be a large outbreak here barring a mutation," Frieden said.

"We're absolutely looking for other mutations or changes," he said.

Without placing blame on the Dallas hospital, National Institutes of Health's allergy and infectious diseases director Anthony Fauci confirmed that both nurses who contracted the disease while treating Duncan have since been moved out of the Dallas hospital where they worked and were being treated.

Vinson was moved to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta Wednesday and Nina Pham was taken to the NIH facility in Maryland Thursday.

Varga said that the NIH facility only has one other bed for a potential patient in their "state-of-the-art" isolation unit.

"Her condition is stable and she seems to be doing reasonably well," Fauci said of Pham.

President Obama canceled travel plans to stay at the White House and oversee the government's response to the Ebola problem.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio