Treating Ebola: Lessons from the Pre-Antibiotic Era — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
August 12, 2014

Treating Ebola: Lessons from the Pre-Antibiotic Era

By Cara Adler

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Jaye Elizabeth Hefner, MD

The experimental Ebola monoclonal antibody therapy (ZMapp) that elicited a seeming "miracle cure" in an American missionary worker stems from antimicrobial research started in the pre-antibiotic era, according to a commentary in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Recounting the history of such research since the late nineteenth century, Scott Podolsky, Associate Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, notes that we can draw lessons from this earlier era. For example, passive serotherapy used to treat pneumonia in the early twentieth century was found to be most effective against certain serotypes and when administered early — "analogous to treatment of Ebola, it seems," he writes.

Reader Comments (5)

Anne Phelan-Adams MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Consultative Medical Service

I agree 100%. There are lessons that history can teach us. While they weren't able to produce monoclonal Ab's in the pre-antibiotic area, serum was used to treat infections. I would be interested if there were any controlled clinical trials. Some of these patients may have gotten better on their own and of course there were allergic reactions to these serums that are unlikely to occur with monoclonal Ab's.

DAVID LEE Physician, Critical Care Medicine

But then there was the HA1A anti-endotoxin debacle of the 1990s ...
Always beware of the influence of profit-taking in the "science" behind breakthroughs.

John W Cooper Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, outpatient

Interesting. Would like more details but can't access AIM without a subscription. Not fair! NEJM Journal Watch may want to consider a policy of only including links that offer full access.

Dr.Paul Dollfus MD Other, Neurology, Retired. Chief Physician of the Rehabitation Center of Mulgouse Fr.

I would be reather careful because Ebola has been rather well studied before in Central Africa abd there has been reports fro eating monkeys and orher wild small animals in the past. Lately the virus has been shown and the Pasteur Institute has been joining force witth other institutes. and the virus image shown in HIV infections.........

Fillinger, Deborah, MD Physician, Internal Medicine

What have we learned from the antibodies found among current survivors?

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