“Patient is Ebola Free” Says KEMRI

“Patient is Ebola Free” Says KEMRI

By Najar Nyakio,

Over the weekend it was reported that Ebola had struck a patient from Malaba in Western Kenya who was admitted to the Kericho County Referral Hospital and immediately put under isolation. But the Kenyan Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said that there was NO outbreak in the country. She retorted that “..medics had sent blood samples to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) laboratories in Nairobi for further tests which results will be expected later on Monday. A rapid surveillance and response team has examined the patient who is in stable condition and has confirmed that the patient does not meet the case definition of Ebola,” she pleaded with githeri media, “allow me to confirm to Kenyans that the patient does NOT meet the case definition of Ebola.”

Uganda however, is on high alert after two people – a five-year-old boy and her grandmother –died days after arriving in the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo that has reported several fatalities from Ebola. 

While as African’s we struggle with this disease and many others, we should not ignore how last year in November, scientists in Britain herself expressed concern on after more than 17 female delegates from Africa and Asia were denied access into London for a Health Conference – a two-day Women Leaders in Global Health conference exploring gender balance in global public health. Peter Piot, a Belgian-born microbiologist who was part of a team that discovered the Ebola virus in the 1970’s and is now director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, was among those who protested against the restrictive criteria in the UK for granting short-term business visas. The conference had attracted around 900 people from over 70 or more countries. Among the delegates due to attend were Britain’s chief medical officer Sally Davies and Soumya Swaminathan, a World Health Organization deputy director general. The conference was a forum intended to promote international debate and to nurture new talent,” a furious Piot wrote in the letter, a copy of which was posted on his institution’s website.

But it seems that the UK did not take the warning to heart. “In April of this year at our inception meeting all six of the Africa researchers were either refused a visa or it arrived too late!”  The IDS Director, Professor Melissa Leach highlighted how a prejudiced UK visa system refused visas for African researchers,  undermining international collaborations and efforts to tackle global challenges such as the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking to the Observer newspaper, Professor Leach said that  “…the UK has just committed to investing heavily in the Ebola outbreak in DRC . Here at IDS we are leading a major collaborative research programme to look at efforts to avoid big pandemics. One individual was refused because they said ‘on the balance of probabilities we don’t believe you are a researcher‘. This is deeply insulting! Across the board this adds up to evidence of institutional racism in the Home Office. It is so arbitrary. Our colleagues here at Sussex and at other institutions now routinely meet in other countries, Dubai for example.”  Professor Leach was also a leading signatory of a letter published in the Observer from 70 senior representatives from academia and civil society who expressed their growing concern over the numbers of African partners being refused entry to the UK.  The letter stated that the UK’s visa system was damaging ‘Global Britain’s’ reputation and called for ‘a fair and equitable visa system that promotes and protects the essential collaborations that mean we can tackle today’s global challenges as well as the unknown challenges of the future.’

Is it time for conferences concerning Africa matters to be held on African ground? It would seem so. Meanwhile, KEMRI had announced that it had come up with a vaccine for Ebola as far back as 2017. Perhaps we should forget looking for solutions ‘outside Africa’ and work with KEMRI –

Researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) said that the two vaccines they have come up with could work against the deadly disease. They said they were “testing” them for side effects in human beings. The study carried out in Kericho and Kombewa in Kisumu  evaluated the “safety” of the vaccines for two Ebola virus strains. According to the study’s associate investigator, Josephat Kosgei, the researchers tested the two vaccines against the Ebola virus to find out if they were safe. “We want to investigate how the body’s immune system responds to the study vaccines,” Dr Kosgei told reporters during a visit to the study site in Kericho. The study was sponsored by Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B V. Josephat Kosgei  had said that the second phase of the vaccine trial, which had started in March of 2017 had enrolled 122 – one hundred and twenty two – participants (read human beings) who received two vaccinations each of Ebola Virus and that all the subjects were being followed up.

“We have done six months visits. We are waiting for the last visit at one year, which will be six months from now, then data analysis will be done,” He added that participants’ clinical evaluation included medical history and physical examination at every study visit. A KEMRI Director at the Kericho site, Fredrick Sawe, said the study was a breakthrough in the search for an Ebola vaccine. He had said that after the trials which were at their tail end, it would be able to treat Ebola patients and prevent infection.

Maybe that’s what happened to the patient in Kericho. Who really knows – Does KENYA have the Cure for Ebola?

By Najar Nyakio