When cases of Ebola were detected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in May, local officials moved swiftly and global resources were rushed to help them. By the time the World Health Organization declared the outbreak over on July 2, only four people had died, four more had survived the disease, and the outbreak had been contained in a remote region of the country.

Three years after the West Africa Ebola outbreak was first identified in March 2014, eventually killing more than 11,000 people and striking fear of global contagion, the world’s health leaders have taken steps to ensure they can mount a better response the next time such a threat arises.

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  • This article outlines the importance of vigilance by the medical preparedness community toward preventing the unchecked spread of the next Ebola outbreak. These types of articles are crucial in maintaining awareness by official health organizations, calling for allocation of resources between outbreaks, and development of adequate local diagnostic capabilities. The article, however, missed the opportunity to paint a more realistic and bright picture of the level of preparedness that is currently achievable with relatively limited resources. The author stated “We still don’t have a rapid, effective, easy-to-use diagnostic tool. To be sure, on-site labs can diagnose Ebola relatively swiftly. But in rural areas, such labs are few and far between, requiring that samples be transported long distances before a diagnosis is made”. The Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium (www.vhfc.org) developed, deployed, and received the first and still only FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and World Health Organization EUA Listing of a rapid, highly sensitive and specific rapid diagnostic test for Ebola, the ReEBOV RDT. Independent evaluations of the test in the field during the 2014 – 2016 West African outbreak proved its worth in rapidly detecting Ebola infections (e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26119838). Between outbreaks broad implementation of such tests in at-risk regions of the world would permit the earliest possible identification of early outbreak events, and the likelihood of swiftly implementing quarantine and mitigation measures. The tools exist, implementation is key. Resources are not limitless, but complacency might just make the next large outbreak unnecessarily destructive. Providing the public and health officials with the right information is a key preparedness tool.

  • Therapeutic HIV vaccine – RNA viruses – Ebola

    Enzymatic cleavage of viral genomes: hydrolysis interchangeable with ammonolysis in a kind of nitrogen fixation.

    This could also be relevant for Ebola, which also is a single-stranded RNA virus:

    Therapeutic HIV vaccine

    The body’s initial “vaccine-reaction” against HIV could be prolonged if the viruses were inactivated. In comparison, the poliovirus can be inactivated by cleavage of its RNA by ammonia. Hopefully, the same can be true for HIV. Both viruses contain single-stranded RNA and hydrolytic proteases. Perhaps the proteases perform (catalyse) ammonolysis of the phosphodiester bonds in RNA, and so cut the strands. HIV has even RNase H which is specialized in breaking RNA strands. I guess there are proteins with nuclease activity also in the Ebola viruses, e.g. the nucleoprotein (NP). Maybe even coiled, viral RNA can work on itself as an ammonolytic ribozyme. The phosphorus/phosphate (PO4-) in RNA repels water more than it repels ammonia, and is thus favoring ammonolysis over hydrolysis. (NH3 is a stronger nucleophile and a slightly lighter molecule than H2O).
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC354068/?page=1
    The tight encapsulation/packing of RNA in the viruses will promote the ammonolysis process. It brings the 2′ hydroxyl group close to the phosphorus, catalysing breakage of the phosphodiester bonds. There is high inward osmotic pressure in viruses. The hydrophobic cores in the ribonucleoproteins will attract ammonia.
    (The Ebola viruses are extra prone to breakage during mechanical stress in vivo because of their long, rod-shaped forms).
    And the host cells use RNases to hydrolyse foreign RNA. Maybe the RNases switch to ammonolysis when ammonia is available, and thereby speed up this defense.
    In this regard, inhalation of ammonia could be a way to destroy HIV and other RNA viruses in blood and tissue.
    http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Organic_Chemistry/Organic_Chemistry_With_a_Biological_Emphasis/Chapter_10%3A_Phosphoryl_transfer_reactions/Section_10.4%3A_Phosphate_diesters

    Written by:

    Ottar Stensvold

    Molde
    Norway

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