Category: Featured

After Ebola: NEIDL Infectious Diseases Expert Returns to Africa

August 27th, 2015 in Events, Featured, In The News

Original article from: BU Today posted on August 27, 2015. by Susan Seligson

Last August, Nahid Bhadelia traveled to Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic’s peak, hermetically clad in the protective spacesuit-like gear of a biosafety level 4 researcher. Funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Bhadelia went there to share her expertise on infection control and to help care for patients infected with the virus.

A year later, the School of Medicine assistant professor of infectious diseases and director of infection control and medical response at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) returned, this time ungloved and unmasked, to interview African health care and burial workers, many still unpaid for their work during the epidemic. Appalled by their financial plight, Bhadelia recently launched a GoFundMe campaign, Support Sierra Leonean Ebola Workers, with the goal of raising at least $50,000 to help compensate them. As of August 26, donations had reached $13,026.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 13,470 people in Sierra Leone were infected during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and that nearly 4,000 died, along with another 2,500 in neighboring Guinea and 4,800 in Liberia. In May, Newsweek reported that burial workers as well as health care workers were sidelined as $3.3 billion in international relief funds poured in last year to fight the epidemic. Rather than paying frontline workers, most of the money went to United Nations agencies and a score of nongovernmental organizations, fueling protests in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Having witnessed firsthand the tireless efforts of these frontline workers, Bhadelia, who specializes in infection control issues related to emerging pathogens and highly communicable infectious diseases, launched her fundraising campaign on June 19.

Read Full Article on BU Today

A Doctor’s Gift To The Brave Nurses Of Sierra Leone

August 14th, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: NPR posted on August 13, 2015. by Amy Maxmen

It was a gift of about $600, to make up for wages that weren’t paid. A gesture of gratitude, it may be the encouragement embattled nurses need to continue working with the specter of Ebola ever-present.

In the darkest hours, bonds formed between Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease doctor from Boston University who volunteered to fight Ebola last year, and the West African nurses who cared for patients beside her.

Bhadelia’s local partners often went without the pay they were due during the outbreak, and Bhadelia felt a growing urge to support them after she returned to the U.S. Last month, she launched a crowdfund site to send her Sierra Leonean colleagues cash.

Their bond began in late August 2014, when Bhadelia arrived at Kenema Government Hospital in eastern Sierra Leone, as part of a team organized by the World Health Organization. By then, Ebola had killed hundreds of people, including West Africa’s only Ebola expert, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, who headed the hospital’s Ebola ward. His team labored on, often without decent protective gear and the “hazard pay” they had been promised for the dangerous work.

Bhadelia was inspired by their bravery — and they, by her. One afternoon, Bhadelia shook with a wave of panic as she struggled to insert an intravenous line of fluid into a child in the throes of Ebola, while another child died beside her. A nurse in the ward, Issa French, gripped her arm, and steadied her. French later recalled, “When I realized what a sacrifice Dr. Nadia had made to come here and help us, I knew that I needed to keep working.”

Read Full Article in NPR

Ebola Spurs Creation of Japan’s First Maximum-Security Biolab

August 14th, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Nature posted on August 13, 2015. by Helen Shen

Japan is set to join an elite and dangerous club with its decision to upgrade an existing infectious-disease lab to handle the most hazardous pathogens. The move sweeps away more than three decades of political opposition to operating a top-biosafety-level facility 30 kilometres west of Tokyo in the city of Musashi-Murayama.

An agreement reached on 3 August between Japan’s health ministry and the mayor of Musashi-Murayama clears the way for the facility to begin limited work with BSL-4 pathogens such as the Lassa and Ebola viruses. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) built the biosafety-level-4 (BSL-4) lab in 1981, but it has been limited to operating as a BSL-3 lab because of safety concerns. Fears that Ebola might reach Japan during last year’s outbreak in West Africa partly motivated the policy change.

The deal sets several conditions for the lab’s activities: the NIID has committed to maintain transparency in reporting lab operations and any accident, and the lab must also restrict its BSL-4 work to diagnosing and treating patients instead of a broader research programme. However, virologist Ayato Takada at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, hopes that the agreement will ease the way for other facilities where scientists can perform basic infectious disease research at the BSL-4 level. Discussions are under way to build a bigger and more modern BSL-4 lab at Nagasaki University — a move that has similarly met with community opposition.

Read Full Article in Nature

Drug Might Fight Ebola-like Marburg Virus

July 24th, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Health Day posted on July 22, 2015. by Randy Dotinga

Researchers say they’ve made preliminary progress toward developing a drug that one day may treat people infected with the deadly Marburg virus, which is similar to Ebola.

Monkeys didn’t die from Marburg virus after they were infected and then treated with the highest doses of the experimental drug. And healthy humans didn’t get sick when they got similar doses, the researchers reported.

“These results have allowed us to predict a dose that could be expected to protect humans exposed to Marburg virus,” said study author Dr. Alison Heald. She is a clinical associate professor with the division of allergy and infectious diseases at the University of Washington Medical Center, in Seattle.

The researchers emphasized that the drug is not a cure, and it’s not known whether it will protect humans or what it might cost.

Marburg virus gets less attention than the Ebola virus since far fewer cases have been recorded. Only 572 cases of Marburg virus have ever been reported, compared to more than 27,000 cases of Ebola in the current outbreak in Africa alone, said Heald. She formerly was senior director of clinical development at Sarepta Therapeutics, which assisted in testing the experimental medication.

But the two viruses are very similar, Heald said. Both are highly deadly and cause a devastating condition known as viral hemorrhagic fever that can lead to massive bleeding and organ failure.

Read Full Article in Health Day

Boston Doctor Is Raising Money to Compensate Unpaid Ebola Workers

July 2nd, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Boston Magazine posted on June 30, 2015. by Jamie Ducharme

When Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease doctor at Boston Medical Center, joined the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone last year, she kept hearing the same thing from local healthcare workers: The pay they had been promised had not come for months—if at all.

“These are folks that really invested so much of their own lives into it and faced stigma in their communities,” Bhadelia says. “They were finding themselves in a situation where they were putting their lives at risk every day, they were seeing their friends pass away, and they weren’t getting paid.”

Now that the healing has begun, Bhadelia wants to set things right. In mid-June, she launched a Go Fund Me page with the goal of raising $50,000, all of which would go toward retroactively paying healthcare workers. At the time this article was written, the project had raised $3,750, enough to compensate five workers and their families.

Read Full Article in Boston Magazine

Researchers Frustrated by Failure to Roll Out ‘Game-Changing’ Ebola Test

June 29th, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Nature posted on June 26, 2015. by Declan Butler

A test kit that diagnoses Ebola rapidly using just a finger prick of blood could save lives in the ongoing epidemic in West Africa. But researchers are perplexed as to why the diagnostic kit has not been deployed in the field, despite both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug Administration approving it four months ago for emergency use.

“A lot of people are frustrated,” says Nira Pollock, an infectious-diseases researcher at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, and the senior author of an independent field-validation study of the test kit, published on 26 June1 in The Lancet. The results were presented to the WHO and health ministries in affected countries in March. “Many groups on the ground would like to deploy the test, but can’t, because national regulators haven’t approved it.”

The test, developed by the medical-diagnostics company Corgenix, of Broomfield, Colorado, detects Ebola specific proteins that are in the blood. Like a pregnancy test kit, it shows a positive result by coloured bands; it is simple enough to use that healthcare workers with minimal training could deploy it in remote villages and get a fast result. Existing ‘gold-standard’ methods of diagnosis require blood samples to be drawn and transported to sophisticated central laboratories for processing — which can result in long delays. The Corgenix test could not replace lab confirmation, but it would allow workers to identify infected people and isolate them faster, greatly reducing the spread of disease, says Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts.

Read Full Article in Nature

Bedside Ebola Test Accurate

June 26th, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: MedPage Today posted on June 25, 2015. by Michael Smith

A bedside blood test for Ebola detected all of the cases that were positive on a standard assay and most of those that were negative, researchers reported.

Importantly, the Corgenix ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test was faster than a widely used commercial assay that employs polymerase chain reactions (PCR), according to Nira Pollock, MD, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues.

But the analysis uncovered weaknesses in a standard PCR test, made by altona Diagnostics of Hamburg, Germany, that make it unclear how well the rapid test functions early in the disease course, when patients are less infectious, Pollock and colleagues reported online in The Lancet.

The latter finding “suggests that practical use of the rapid diagnostic test will need careful confirmation,” commented Nahid Bhadelia, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine.

In an accompanying editorial, Bhadelia said just completing the study — in the face of the “logistical, staff safety, and administrative obstacles” of the Ebola outbreak — is a feat in itself.

Read Full Article on MedPage Today

Could an Ebola Treatment Already Exist?

June 9th, 2015 in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates

Original article from: BU Today posted on June 9, 2015. by Rich Barlow

What if Zoloft and Vascor—safe prescription drugs that you can pick up at your CVS for depression and heart trouble, respectively—could treat Ebola?

A government study led by a researcher at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) suggests that this may be the case. If confirmed effective in humans—a finding that immunologist Gene Olinger says will take several years—doctors might sprint to a treatment well ahead of the standard 15-year, $1 billion-and-up process of developing and marketing a new drug.

When the researchers treated 10 mice infected with Ebola with Vascor (bepridil), customarily used to control blood pressure in heart patients, all the mice survived the often-deadly virus. When they treated 10 mice with the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline), 7 survived. The next step, Olinger says, will be to test the drugs in guinea pigs and monkeys.

Read Full Article on BU Today

BU Scientist Uses Existing Drugs in Fight Against Ebola

June 5th, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Boston Globe posted on June 4, 2015. by Karen Weintraub

Hoping to develop a drug against Ebola, but lacking the $1 billion to bring a new medicine to market, Boston University infectious disease researcher Gene Olinger turned to a more affordable source of drugs — those already available at his local pharmacy.

It paid off. In a study published Wednesday, Olinger reports that he and his team have found two promising possibilities, one a pill used to treat depression, the other taken for heart pain.

Seven of 10 mice infected with a lethal dose of Ebola lived after being given Zoloft (also known as sertraline), commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. And all of the Ebola-infected mice given Vascor, a heart drug, survived, according to the new study in Science Translational Medicine.

These drugs are far from a cure for Ebola. They still need to be tested in monkeys and, if they work, then in people. But this screening technique could make a profound difference in the treatment of infectious diseases that may seem minor today, yet could cause the next global outbreak.

Read Full Article in Boston Globe

Frontline Health Workers were Sidelined in $3.3bn Fight Against Ebola

May 21st, 2015 in Featured, In The News

Original article from: Newsweek posted on May 19, 2015. by Amy Maxmen

Under cover of darkness, a few burial workers pried open the steel doors of a hospital morgue and stole the corpses of two adults and one child. They carried the bodies confidently, with hands that carted cadavers daily. They took the bodies to the hospital’s front gates, and tossed them beside a paved road that bisects downtown Kenema, the third largest city in Sierra Leone.

It was 25 November, 2014 and hospitals were collapsing under the weight of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. The men and women on the frontlines of the crisis, who risked their lives to save the dying and protect the healthy from infection, had begun to feel duped. While millions of dollars had been donated to Sierra Leone from all over the world to help them tackle the crisis, their pleas for pay had been overlooked. But the burial workers knew that the corpses wouldn’t be.

As the sun rose, a crowd gathered around the bodies. No one admitted to dumping them, but members of the hospital’s burial team, the 23 men tasked with carrying and cleaning Ebola-infected corpses, told local journalists that the cadavers had been displayed as a form of protest. The team had not received the €100 ($115) weekly in “hazard pay” they had been promised for nearly two months. And they were not alone. All over the country, doctors, nurses, hospital cleaners, lab technicians and burial workers were missing paychecks.

Read Full Article in Newsweek