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Battling a killer

Health workers continue to fight the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history

An Ebola victim is buried in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo. John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Battling a killer
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The second-worst Ebola outbreak in history continues to wreak havoc in eastern Congo. As of June 5, the disease had infected 2,031 people and killed 1,367. Nearly one-third of the cases involve children under the age of 18.

The region’s high population and close proximity to Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan pose a high risk for the virus to spread. On June 11, health officials confirmed a case in Uganda.

An experimental vaccine created by Merck, V920, is highly effective against Ebola. But the number of available doses is limited, and the shot takes roughly 10 days to produce immunity, a Merck representative told Gizmodo. Other hurdles have also made it difficult for health workers to contain the disease: They include widespread violence, people fleeing the country, distrust of government and healthcare workers, and misinformation.

In a glimmer of good news, the World Health Organization reported on June 6 the number of new cases had declined to 88 per week, down from 126 per week in April. But the organization cautioned, “Substantive rates of transmission continue within affected communities, and further waves of the outbreak may be expected.”

The worst Ebola outbreak in history began in West Africa in 2014 and infected nearly 30,000 people, killing more than 11,000.

Placenta solution

Recent research offers good news for both heart attack victims and pro-life advocates who oppose treatments using embryonic stem cells, which involve the destruction of human embryos.

Scientists at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York induced heart attacks in mice and treated one group with CDX2 cells, a type of stem cell derived from placenta. Three months later, MRI testing revealed that in each mouse that received the treatment the stem cells migrated to the site of the heart injury and formed new blood vessels and new beating heart muscle cells.

In the study, published May 20 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers also discovered that CDX2 cells possess special proteins that enable them to travel to the injury site, something embryonic stem cells cannot do. CDX2 cells, abundantly available in human placentas, also avoid rejection by evading the immune response. —J.B.

Evidence of injury

Besides killing a baby, the abortion pill may cause negative health effects on the mother, according to a new study. Scientists found that animals that underwent drug-induced abortions displayed behaviors and biological changes suggesting stress, brain changes, and general lack of wellness.

In the study, published in Frontiers in Neuroscience on May 29, researchers from the United States and Chile analyzed the biological effects of drug-induced abortions (using mifepristone and misoprostol) on a group of pregnant rats. Rats are similar to humans in physiology, neurology, and response to stress. The animals that experienced induced abortion showed a significant decrease in body weight compared with rats that spontaneously miscarried. They also showed diminished food intake, decreased movement, and reduced grooming.

According to Donna Harrison, a physician with the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, so-called “medication abortion” drugs lacked appropriate safety studies when pharmaceutical companies began marketing them. “Medical abortion researchers focused on how fast the drug could kill the baby, and how much effort it would take on the part of the abortionists to handle complications,” she said in a statement. “Elective abortion was thrust on American women without regard to the safety of this procedure or the long-term effects on a woman’s body or mind.” —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.


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