Despite restrictions reducing travel in and out of the infected countries by 80 percent, the study, which analyzes global flight patterns, suggests that a case of Ebola in the U.S. is becoming increasingly harder to avoid. It also lists the chance of the virus reaching the United Kingdom between 25 and 28 percent.
The analysis also warns that if the current West African outbreak is not contained the likelihood of the virus reaching Europe and the U.S. will “increase consistently.”
The study lists just a five percent chance of Ebola occurring in the U.S. today, suggesting that the disease is far from contained to countries in West Africa. According to numbers obtained by the World Health Organization, there have been an estimated 3,685 cases and 1,841 deaths from the virus since the outbreak began.
Although two Americans — Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol — have been treated for Ebola in the U.S., both of them contracted the disease while working in Liberia. Doctors suggested that better medical care contributed to their eventual recovery.
A third infected American working in Liberia, Dr. Richard A. Sacra, is on his way to the U.S. for treatment.
HHS awards $24.9 million contract to accelerate development of Ebola drug
The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The $24.9 million, 18-month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego, California, may be extended up to a total of $42.3 million. HHS notes that it is seeking additional proposals for the advanced development of antibody treatments, antiviral drugs, and vaccines against the Ebola and Marburg viruses.
The development of a medication to treat illness from Ebola will be accelerated under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). HHS says that this contract supports the government-wide response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will provide funding as well as access to subject matter expertise and technical support for manufacturing, regulatory, and nonclinical activities through a $24.9 million, 18-month contract with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., of San Diego, California. ASPR can extend the contract up to a total of $42.3 million.
Work under the contract supports the development and manufacturing of the medication ZMapp toward the goal of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.
“While ZMapp has received a lot of attention, it is one of several treatments under development for Ebola, and we still have very limited data on its safety and efficacy,” explained Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response. “Developing drugs and vaccines to protect against Ebola as a biological threat has been a long-term goal of the U.S. government, and today’s agreement represents an important step forward.”
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) within the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of HHS’ National Institutes of Health supported initial work on this product. To speed the development of ZMapp, BARDA will work closely with those agencies. BARDA also will work with the company to optimize and accelerate the manufacturing of ZMapp so testing can be done as soon as possible.
As part of the project funded today, Mapp Biopharmaceutical will manufacture a small amount of the drug for early stage clinical safety studies and nonclinical studies needed to demonstrate the drug’s safety and efficacy in people. Mapp Biopharmaceuticals also will work with BARDA on the manufacturing process, increasing production yields and the scale of manufacturing.
As an experimental drug, ZMapp currently is available only in very limited quantities and these steps will contribute to increasing the amount of product potentially available to treat patients with Ebola.
ZMapp is a combination of three monoclonal antibodies manufactured in tobacco plants.
Monoclonal antibodies bind certain virus proteins and neutralize the virus, decreasing the amount of the virus in the body that the patient’s immune system has to fight. ZMapp has been shown to reduce mortality in mice and nonhuman primates exposed to Ebola viruses.
The project with Mapp Biopharmaceutical is the first BARDA program supporting the development of a product against viruses that cause viral hemorrhagic fever.
Even the most advanced potential therapeutics and vaccines for Ebola are entering early clinical trials. BARDA is working with other federal agencies to accelerate the development of Ebola therapeutics and vaccines and to identify ways to optimize and expand their production. BARDA is exploring whether its Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, its Fill Finish Manufacturing Network, or other measures can accelerate the manufacturing time.
BARDA notes that it is seeking additional proposals for the advanced development of antibody treatments, antiviral drugs, and vaccines against the Ebola and Marburg viruses, both of which cause viral hemorrhagic fever. Program requirements are described in BARDA’s Broad Agency Announcement BARDA–BAA-13-100-SOL-00013.
This Is How The Ebola Epidemic Might Spread If It’s Not Contained
The 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak is now the largest and deadliest in history. But how far will it spread? Using the most recent data, a research team has created a computer simulation of its potential to reach around the globe, illustrating the urgency for containment.
Top image: Air traffic connections from West African countries to the rest of the world: “Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are not well connected outside the region. Nigeria, in contrast, being the most populous country in West Africa with more than 166 million people, is well connected to the rest of world. For historical reasons, all these countries have the strongest ties with European countries.”
To create the simulation, the researchers used the Global Epidemic and Mobility Model. The model considers daily airline passenger traffic worldwide, along with the potential rate of spread in communities, hospitals, and burials.
As the researchers note,
[I]f the outbreak is not contained, the probability of international spread is going to increase consistently, especially if other countries are affected and are not able to contain the epidemic.
Projections show that the disease could reach 10,000 cases by September, but only if current control efforts are not ramped up.
It is important to stress that the presented modeling analysis has been motivated by the need for a rapid assessment of the EVD outbreak trends and contains assumptions and approximations unavoidable with the current lack of data from the region. The results may change as more information becomes available from the EVD affected region and more refined sensitivity analysis can be implemented computationally. Furthermore, the modeling approach does not include scenarios for the identification and isolation of cases, the quarantine of contacts, and the proper precautions in hospital and funeral preparation that would be relevant in discussing optimal containment strategies. Such a modeling effort however calls for better and more detailed data not available at the moment. [emphasis added]
So the researchers admit that they need more data. Moreover, the extrapolations don’t take potential containment strategies into account. This is a kind of worst case scenario — but one that (disturbingly) takes the current status quo into account.
Read the entire paper here.