Ebola: WHO Warns Against Usage of Nano Silver

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Panic over Ebola has the makers of dietary supplements aggressively targeting Africans, claiming to have a cure for the lethal virus.
Late this week, both the World Health Organization and the United States Food and Drug Administration issued strong warnings about false Ebola cures. The latter threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims.
Neither agency listed products or companies they accused of fraud or explained why they had acted so suddenly.
Nigeria’s Health Minister, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, was widely reported on Thursday to have endorsed an American nutritional supplement, one that the WHO said was an example of the sort of “false rumours of effective products” it was trying to quell.
Earlier this week, a WHO expert ruled it ethical to try some experimental to fight this outbreak; some supplement makers have implied that ruling constituted permission for use of their products, though a top WHO official emphasized that it did not.
While discussing the shipment to Liberia of an experimental drug the panel did endorse, ZMapp, Nigeria’s health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas had arranged for Nigeria to get a different experimental medicine, according to Nigerian news outlets. They identified it as NanoSilver, a supplement offered by the Natural Solutions Foundation, which said that it contains microscopic silver particles, although, as a food supplement, it is not tested by regulatory agencies. Silver kills some microbes on surfaces and in wounds, but it can be toxic and is not FDA-approved for systemic use against viruses.
ZMapp is a set of antibodies made by the Mapp company of San Diego. Only a few doses exist, and the first two were given to American health workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia and are now hospitalized in Atlanta.
NanoSilver is for sale on the foundation’s website alongside hemp oil, ear candles, chocolate and “mental clarity packs.”
Recently, the foundation’s medical director, Dr. Rima E. Laibow, posted an “open letter to heads of Ebola-impacted states,” dated July 29, claiming that NanoSilver cured Ebola. Laibow also claimed to have addressed 47 African health ministers at a 2007 conference and to be in touch with “West African governments and their advisers.”
Dr. Laibow could not be reached for comment. On Friday afternoon, after The New York Times emailed her a series of questions, two of her websites briefly became unavailable, then reappeared with headlines saying they were “under attack” and directing readers to other sites selling a different product, Silver Solution.
Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general of the WHO, said that testing promising treatments “doesn’t mean that any crazy idea that people have – things that have barely been tested in anything – will now be brought to Africa to test on patients. This is absolutely out of the question.”
A WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl, said NanoSilver was an example of the type of product Dr. Kieny was referring to.
Advertisements for other Ebola-fighting supplements, including one called monolaurin, can still be found.
Erica Jefferson, an FDA spokeswoman, said her agency issued its warning both to alert consumers “and to give the perpetrators the opportunity to remove their products.”
Although the agency’s chief mission is to protect Americans, she said the warning was also issued in French, which is widely spoken in West Africa.
Because no Ebola drug is FDA-approved, the agency did not name any drug it endorses.
But the warning did have a link to a Q and A document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that named biotech companies with National Institutes of Health or Department of Defence grants to develop products to fight Ebola. While most products do not yet have brand names, the companies included Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Profectus Biosciences and Crucell.
Those products “are not available to consumers online,” Jefferson pointed out.
Since the outbreak started, many rumoured cures have swept West Africa. A popular Nigerian rumour is that bathing in or drinking saltwater is protective. Bags of “blessed Ebola cure salt” are for sale.
While bathing in saltwater is harmless, drinking large amounts of it is not. The WHO said two Nigerians have died of it.
Arthur L. Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, said world health agencies should create two panels: one of scientists to pick which experimental should be tried, and a second of bioethicists to ascertain that desperate, sometimes illiterate patients were giving true informed consent.
And, he added, Western scientists must tread carefully in countries with other healing traditions.
“If you’re going to say ‘no’ to the healer who wants to use eye of newt to cure Ebola, you’ve got to do it respectfully, or you’ll lose them,” he said.
Dr. Caplan said false claims of cures for Ebola were “predictable, but hugely worrying.”
“Whenever there is fear, misery and death, there are people who will take your money promising you a cure,” he said. “It happens here — we all remember laetrile and the Hoxsey cure,” he added, naming cancer treatments based on apricot pits and caustic herbs.
Over the 30-year history of the AIDS epidemic, many quack HIV cures have been marketed to Africans, especially in the days before Western donors began sending millions of doses of generic antiretroviral drugs.
One particularly damaging episode occurred in in 1997, when three Pretoria scientists claimed to have discovered a cure, which they named Virodene.
Rejected by the national drug-regulatory agency, they conducted human trials secretly and then got the ear of President Thabo Mbeki, who invited “cured AIDS patients” to speak to his cabinet. The cabinet enthusiastically endorsed the drug, and breathless headlines proclaimed Virodene the “African miracle.”
It later turned out to contain a dangerous industrial solvent, and the subsequent backlash against Mbeki by the largely white South African medical community was thought to have contributed to his years of AIDS denialism.
(New York Times).

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