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Ebola is now largely curable, new clinical trials suggest
A recent clinical trial shows that two new drugs are far more effective than current treatments.
- The Democratic Republic of Congo has been suffering a major Ebola outbreak since August 2018.
- In November 2018, a clinical trial began comparing the efficacy of four Ebola treatments.
- Two of those treatments — based on monoclonal antibodies — are nearly twice as effective as the standard treatment.
In August 2018, an Ebola outbreak struck a conflict zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province. It soon spread elsewhere throughout the nation of 81.3 million people, many of whom are embroiled in battles over DRC's valuable minerals. By April, the outbreak had become the second worst ever recorded, and by June it had killed at least 1,357 Congolese.
But a recent clinical trial that compared the efficacy of four Ebola treatments brings good news.
"From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the director general of the Institut National pour la Recherche Biomédicale in DRC, which has overseen the trial. "These advances will help save thousands of lives."
In November 2018, doctors in DRC began randomly assigning Ebola patients one of four treatments: an antiviral drug named remdesivir, or one of three drugs made of monoclonal antibodies, which are a set of immune cells cloned from a parent cell. ZMapp — one of the three drugs that use monoclonal antibodies — has long been considered the most effective treatment for Ebola. In the clinical trial, it helped lower mortality rates among Ebola patients to about 49 percent. (Patients who don't receive any treatment have a mortality rate of roughly 75 percent.)
But two other drugs of the same class — a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies made by a company named Regeneron, and an antibody called mAb114 made by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' Vaccine Research Center — were much more effective, yielding an overall mortality rate of 29 and 34 percent, respectively. These drugs were developed by giving mice Ebola and then extracting the antibodies that the mice produced. Scientists then tweaked those mice antibodies so the human body would accept them. The two drugs will now be administered in every treatment center in DRC.
An illustration depicting how to safely bury people who died from Ebola. Image source: CDC's Center for Global Health
The monoclonal antibodies-based drugs were especially successful at curing Ebola when patients took them soon after becoming sick, with Regeneron's drug lowering mortality rates to just 6 percent. But one problem is that most Ebola patients in DRC wait an average of four days before coming to the hospital, which decreases the odds of survival and increases the odds of transmitting the disease — through bodily fluids — to people near them.
But health experts are optimistic about the new drugs."The more we learn about these two treatments, and how they can complement the public health response, including contact tracing and vaccination, the closer we can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable," Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the co-chair of the World Health Organization's Ebola therapeutics group, told The Guardian. "We won't ever get rid of Ebola but we should be able to stop these outbreaks from turning into major national and regional epidemics."
Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?
Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.