Heart and biochemistry monitors blink beside a lady curled up on a camp bed in an Ebola treatment center. Her bed is encased in a plastic cube to contain the virus, and an experimental medicine flows through her veins.
The race to develop remedies for Ebola has accelerated because the largest epidemic in history devastated West Africa between 2014 and 2016. Scientists responding to the ongoing outbreak within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have enrolled more than 500 members in unprecedented research of experimental drugs, vaccinated almost 170,000 individuals, and sequenced the genomes of nearly 270 Ebola samples collected from the sick.
“This outbreak is a milestone for rigorous, good analysis,” says David Heymann, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “We’ll get definitive answers.”
Progress is sorely wanted. The year-old DRC outbreak is the second-largest on record and the first to strike in a war. Violence has hampered attempts to contain the virus, prompting the (WHO) World Health Organization to declare a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ on 17 July. The company says that almost 2,600 folks within the DRC have been infected with Ebola and more than 1,700 have died.
Working in a battle zone has forced researchers to adapt and persevere to a rare degree. They’ve learned how to conduct rigorous research in areas where killings, abductions, and arson are commonplace, and where Ebola responders have come under repeated attack. Though biomedical advances alone cannot defeat Ebola, scientists studying this outbreak remain hopeful that their rising knowledge will assist end it — and limit those to come.