Ebola Turns Floodlight on Sierra Leone’s Scientists


NOVEMBER  4, 2014  By Oswald Hanciles

Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope (Francis)  made comments which experts said put an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI….. Pope Francis said  “(God)  created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment……The Big Bang, which today we’re told  to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator, but, rather, requires it….” – The Belfast Telegraph, November 3, 2014  (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/pope-francis-evolution-and-big-bang-theory-do-not-contradict-creationism-30698804.html)

“….We in Africa must either begin to build up our scientific and technological training capabilities or remain an impoverished appendage to the global economy… ….” – Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.

The Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times. Never before in recorded history has a biosafety level four pathogen infected so many people so quickly, over such a broad geographical area, for so longWorld Health Organization.


Sierra Leone Action” Poised to Take Action on Ebola

Jumping into the war field as ‘mind combatants’ in the Ebola War, a group of  Sierra Leoneans,  ‘home-based’, and UK-and-US-based,  physicians  and other professionals, on August, 2014, established the “Sierra Leone Action” (http://www.saloneaction.com/#!media-center/c1j3r). They include: Dr. Ahmed Tejan-Sie (a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, US), Dr. Ernest T. Kamara;  Dr. Sylvester Nicol – (BSc [Hons], MB, BChir, MD, CPE, FACP, Physician Specialist; Properietor/Manager of Davidson Nicol Medical Center, 3 Bright Lane, Off Wilkinson Road in Freetown; a son of the famous Principal of Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Prof. Davidson Nicol);  Ms. Ngadi Kamara; Hon. Member of Parliament [APC], Isata Kabia; Mr. Trevor Young; Mrs. Brenda Johnson-Williams;  George Logan, etc. Their aim is to implement Convalescent Serum Therapy (CST). 

What is that?

“CST” is this: The World Health Organization (WHO) formally encourages the use of blood from Ebola survivors as “prioritized” option for the treatment of Ebola patients. (Statement on the WHO Consultation on potential Ebola therapies and vaccines; http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2014/ebola-therapies-http://www.who.int/entity/bloodsafety/transfusion_services/essential-items_bts.pdf?ua=1)

The WHO has issued guidelines for CST (‘Ebola Blood Therapy’); they include: A register or database of patients recovered from EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) as potential blood donors should be created. Only those EVD patients who have been discharged according to the WHO criteria as: 1) clinically asymptomatic and; 2) twice tested negative for EBOV RNA by molecular techniques, should be considered as potential donors. The two samples for Ebola virus taken from an Ebola survivor should go through testing at least 48 hours apart – and the test results should be negative on each sample.

WHO’s Appeal for ‘Ebola Blood Therapy’

The current Ebola Outbreak is so scary that it has clearly necessitated this WHO appeal to Ebola survivors to donate their blood for the experiment: “People like you who have recovered from EVD, did so, because your body was able to fight the disease and now your blood contains substances which are capable of fighting the EVD (Ebola virus). This ability remains for life – that is you will never have EVD again, even if the Ebola virus enters your body again. We think that patients who currently have the disease, could improve faster if they received some of your blood or plasma (the liquid part of your blood) that has the ability to fight EVD. ….” (Ebola%20WHO%20guidelines%20convalescent%20blood%20serum.pdf)

Kikwit, D.R. Congo Ebola Blood Serum Experiment

In a Release by the Sierra Leone Action group, Dr. Tejan-Sie with intellectual fastidiousness, states the source of the knowledge to be experimented by his group: “. ….. CST was used during the 1995 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo on eight patients. Seven of them recovered….”

What Dr. Tejan-Sie stated there was this scenario: Between January and June 1995, Kikwit, a city 525 km southeast of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, was the epicenter of an outbreak of the Ebola virus. These groups experimented with what Dr. Tejan-Sie is about to do with Sierra Leoneans today: They were the  Kinshasa University, Ministry of Public Health, and Kikwit General  Hospital, National Institute for Biomedical Research, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium. Eight patients were given the CST or ‘Ebola Blood Therapy’.  Seven of them survived – only one patient died (12.5%) died. The death rate for those with the Ebola virus in D.R. Congo was 80%!!

One of those who were given the ‘Ebola Blood Therapy’ (or CST) was a 15 year-old girl who had gone to attend the funeral of her mother who had died of Ebola on the 27th of May, 1995. She touched her mother, as the burial rituals demanded. On the 2nd of June, 1995, she developed cough with hemoptysis, dysphagia, fever, chills, headache, vomiting, anorexia, slight degree of obnubilation. She was so weak she couldn’t even open her mouth.  On 22 June, her temperature was 407C. On the 23rd June, 1995, she was given the blood of an Ebola survivor. By the 30th of June, she started recovering – being able to open her mouth.  On the 24th of July, 1995, she was discharged from the hospital – after being declared ‘Ebola Free’.

It is not only the WHO that is exhibiting excitement about this ‘Ebola Blood Therapy’ (or CST) – which is still at the experimental stage. Professor Peter Piot, the Director of The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and co-discoverer of the Ebola virus in 1976, has supported exploring the use of CST as a potential treatment for Ebola patients.

Science is not the a technician panel beating

Reliable information garnered by this Columnist indicates that the ‘Ebola Blood Therapy’ (CST) was informally experimented on Sierra Leonean medical doctor Dr. Olivette Buck who was infected with the Ebola virus about two months ago. She did not survive. Though she showed signs of improvement after it was tried on her.  The Sierra Leone Action group has disavowed this experiment. Science is not like a technician panel-beating a car.  It is fraught with mistakes and dangers even at the best of times. Given the global medical and pharmaceutical map, the effort of the Sierra Leone Action group has to be given speedy support by all patriots.  Sierra Leone can hardly wait for ‘gods’ from the United States and Europe to come to save them from health epidemics.

Earth worms versus Elephants

Like with other areas of global economic output,   tiny African countries like Sierra Leone are like ‘earth worms’ having to do combat with elephants!!. In 2012, the US Research and Development (R & D) for pharmaceuticals was $111,000,000,000, totaling half a trillion dollars since 2000 – while Europe’s R & D for pharmaceuticals was $30,000 in 2013. Europe’s production of ‘drugs’ was $210 billion in 2013; but, that is nothing, as 62% of all new drugs produced in the world in 2013 was by United States’ companies – where the direct and indirect impact of their pharmaceutical industry is about $800 billion!!  According to the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, the biopharmaceutical sector in the US  generates high-quality jobs and powers economic output for the U.S. economy, serving as the “the foundation upon which one of the United States’ most dynamic innovation and business ecosystems is built” .  About 700,000 are employed by Europe’s pharmaceutical industry – with about 3.5 million people, directly or indirectly, in the US. And West Africa? There is the National Institute for Medical Research NIMR) in Lagos, and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), in Abuja, Nigeria. Their research expenditure is not worth mentioning; as overall expenditure on medicines in Nigeria is just $1.6 billion, for a country about half the population (170 million) of United States, with almost a trillion dollars in expenditure on pharmaceuticals.

The ‘opportunity’ of the current Ebola Outbreak is this: African governments, and private companies, must bond together to finance pharmaceutical companies.

Pre-clinical development of a single drug (determining acute toxicity; pharmacology; chronic toxicity) could take up to five years.  Clinical trials would be in phases – and could last ten years.  Getting the drug into the market after registration, etc. could take up to fifteen years after the first trials would have started. One out of an average of ten thousand ‘elements’ or trials to develop a   drug only ONE would reach a final stage of being marketed.  Average cost of ‘creating’ a new drug go over a billion dollars today – for a single drug. Clearly, Dr. Tejan-Sie and his Sierra Leone Action group are taking a terrible short cut – with encouragement from the WHO. It shows the panic bottoms that have been triggered by the Ebola Outbreak.

The Ebola Outbreak should hammer this truth home to us: as Pope Francis guides in the opening paragraph, we must ‘fuse God and Science together’ in Sierra Leone, and Africa. If a quarter of the energies and money put into the fire-spitting… devil-stamping churches are put towards science, we can begin to adequately fund science at all levels in Sierra Leone.   Our state of science education at all levels in our country is a sheer disgrace.  As I told the Auradicals Club in a Statement I made  during the 40th Anniversary dinner they had at Taia Hotel a couple of months ago, the science laboratories in nearly all our universities in Sierra Leone are worse off than the science laboratories in the poorest schools in Harlem slums in the US.  If we don’t give political support, and, adequate cash, to scientists and medical doctors like Dr. Sylvester Nicol, it will not be the mild prognosis of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame of Africa being forever “impoverished appendages” of the global economy, we will all die collectively: that is the message of the Ebola Outbreak. The Sierra Leone Action group opens a window of opportunity for us.