Racism and Ebola, Capitalism and Ebola, God and Ebola


"It really is astonishing to hear these white Christians going on about "sending their prayers." It's the government that's saving the lives of those missionaries, not your fucking prayers or market fundamentalism."

This was definitely a highlight of this article, well articulated.
Yeah, exactly correct. Well said.
A vaccine would actually be incredibly difficult to develop. The problem is not just one of location (the people at risk for infection incredibly poor and almost inaccessible by the sort of medical attention needed for a long term study), nor even of ethics (if you could get well-trained, well-equipped doctors to these people in their home villags and maintain contact with them over time, you'd actually have much high return-versus-cost ratios for much simpler and better understood interventions than a vaccine trial). It's sheer numbers: Ebola is truly horrific, but it's erupted every few years and until this year it only ever sickened a few hundred people (many of whom died), at unpredictable sites within a vast area containing many millions. How could you possibly test a vaccine under those conditions? Whom would you test-vaccinate, given that the chances they'd ever encounter Ebola were tiny, and smaller still while you were monitoring them? I just don't see how you could ever prove a vaccine was effective, using standard methods. about the closest you could come would be to give a vaccine that had showed promise in an animal model to health care workers - but even then, do you do a randomized double-blinded study, or just give it to everyone and hope for the best?

The experimental medicine given to two Americans is easier. It's a humanized monoclonal antibody, which at this point is something that's incredibly easy to generate in the lab, can be shown to be effective in vitro, is likely to be safe (safety, as opposed to effectiveness, can be tested without needing Ebola sufferers), and can be stored against need in the hope it will work as well in patients as in the culture dish or animal model. Unfortunately, it's also a type of drug that has massive per-dose production costs, it must be stored properly, and it can only be delivered by injection - it's not a type of drug likely to be useful in combating a large-scale outbreak anywhere, and doubly so not in an underdeveloped country lacking good transportation and medical infrastructure.
Modern pharma companies have been gutting their R&D departments for fucking years now. Look at the recent layoffs at Amgen here in Seattle - directly because of a desire to cut costs on R&D.

By the way, now would be a great time to say, "Hey, maybe we need to throw more money at the NAS and the NIH for basic medical research". Those folks generally get shit on by folks who jack off to spending cuts.
One lesson to be learned here: if you are going to acquire a life-threatening disease while traveling abroad, make sure it is a weird one. I kind of doubt you could expect to be airlifted home at government expense if say you came down with dengue.
"there has been a tendency in the West to abandon the search for cures and instead find and promote solutions that lead to the lifelong management of illnesses"

I find that statement to be ludicrous in many ways. I have worked in health research for the better part of a quarter century. This type of statement drives me crazy. There are never any specifics given, just vague generalities about the evils of corporate bio-pharma.
#3, thanks for the great explaining.
@3 / Warren Terra

That is an amazingly well written and informative piece explaining the challenges of dealing with Ebola, much better than Charles knee jerk reaction of "it MUST be RACISM."
Big Pharma doesn't do boutique viruses that kill a few hundered, or a few thousand. Never did. There are plenty of non-profit institutions and universities working on such problems. Locally we quite a few institutions working on "neglected diseases". Get over yourself and your continuously bigoted, broken mind Charles.
Sheesh, you'd be more on point if you questioned why there's no malaria vaccine. It killed over 600,000 people in 2012, mostly poor, mostly children, mostly in Africa.
the White Man's Burden returns. Thanks Charles, we'll get on it, step aside:

Take up the White Man's burden, Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden, In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit, And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden, The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden, No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark[14] them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden, Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man's burden, Have done with childish days--
The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!
I think Pikketty said it best
What ever happened to African solutions to African problems?
@12 there are a few - there were none since WW II but our lab did the science all the current gen malarial meds are based on.

The problem is that the driver of many such diseases is lack of clean water supplies. Fixing malaria only fixes one infectious disease and most people in Africa have 2-3 which all go back to clean water or lack thereof
@10) i think you did not read what i wrote.
Don't equate remoteness with racism. Africa is a mostly third world continent that is less visited than Europe, Asia, and the others. It's human nature, rather than racism, not to address far-away problems until it's too late.
@17: What EXACTLY did you write that reflects even a part of what @3 said?
@18, it is absurd to treat an entire continent as "remote," especially since there are people living in large urban centers throughout Africa. Your Western-centric concept of "remoteness" and "far-away problems" is a product of a world that views Africa and its citizens as isolated, primitive, and unimportant. It's racist as fuck.
@20: No, I could have phrased it better but you totally misread what I wrote. Totally.
Of course, why hasn't Chuckles given the US military and their research on ebola any thanks?
Don't worry Charles. If Ebola ever reaches Europe, a cure will magically be developed. Thousands of African migrants travel to Europe each and every day so I think it's a matter of time before Ebola ends up over there.

I don't understand why the vaccines given to the two missionaries couldn't be mass produced and given to Africans suffering from Ebola.
"I don't understand why the vaccines given to the two missionaries couldn't be mass produced and given to Africans suffering from Ebola."

Errrr, so the US government should just give out new drugs that haven't had full human trials to Africans willy nilly? How, drop by airplane? Have the US army (since it's their research) parachute in and start jabbing Africans with an untested cure?

Seriously, you can't win with you people.
Of course, when the West, or US Army, does find the cure, will Africa thank us?
"I don't understand why the vaccines given to the two missionaries couldn't be mass produced and given to Africans suffering from Ebola."

Apparently Seattle liberals learned about epidemiology watching Brad Pitt, hero of the UN, saviour of Israel, in "World War Z".

And here I thought science was the left's strong suit.
"Sheesh, you'd be more on point if you questioned why there's no malaria vaccine. It killed over 600,000 people in 2012, mostly poor, mostly children, mostly in Africa"

There's no vaccine against malaria in general and the most lethal form - P.falciparum - in particular, because the parasite, unlike bacteria and viruses, uses a strategy called antigenic variation evade detection and avoid destruction by your immune system.

It has dozens to hundreds of copies of each variant antigen that it displays on the surface of the red blood cells that it infects, all of which change rapidly by swapping bits and pieces of the genes that that encode members of the same gene family, and all of which are expressed one at a time. As soon as your immune system locks onto one copy, other parasites have already started expressing different copies of the same gene. It's like trying to use facial recognition software to catch a guy with hundreds of masks in his backpack.

What this means in practice is that it's almost impossible to develop a vaccine that would expose your immune system to enough of the parasite's protein repertoire to confer protection.

There are other forms of the parasite that represent different stages of the life cycle (the forms that it uses as part of the initial invasion or the exit via mosquitos) that occur in humans that it might be marginally less difficult to simulate with a vaccine, but those are transient phases and blocking them effectively enough to prevent infection or transmission presents challenges that are also quite daunting.

In short - the reason there's no malaria vaccine is that the nature of the parasite makes it exceptionally hard, if not impossible, to develop a vaccine. This is something scientists have been working on for *decades*. If it was easy, it would have been done a long time ago. It's not.
The treatment given to the two Americans was not a vaccine, it was a humanized monoclonal antibody. For comparison, possibly the most famous and commercially successful drug in this class (certainly one of the first, and the one I can think of offhand) is Herceptin. With an established market, the consequent efficiency benefits of mass production, and competition from generic producers, the lowest cost I could rapidly find with Google was $1000 per dose of Herceptin (that's $50,000 per year, though I have no idea how many doses the anti-Ebola drug would require). It is not trivial to mass-produce; even if you decided to damn the expense, the facilities are specialized and limited, so you'd probably have to stop making other humanized monoclonals.

In any case, my understanding is that there simply hasn't been much of this stuff made.
Hantavirus is a hemorhaggic fever that is native to Western cities and populations. It's been known since the 70's. Last I checked, it isn't exactly defeated.

I mean, there's a so many reasons we don't have a vaccine. It's not like ebola is something private pharma can even study. All research involving it is done at Ft. Dietrick, and any company working with it, is working with it courtesy of the fed. government as a contractor.

On an aside to warren's point, I highly doubt that monoclonal antibodies could even be shipped to Africa from their manufacturing point. They're likely pretty fragile. There's a lot about capitalism that is fucked, but this simply isn't one of them.
@8 I'd also like to add that there is a huge financial incentive to creating cures over treatments.

Everyone points out the fact that you can make money off of the treatments, but they forget that if I suddenly come out with a cure, not only am I making money hand over fist as the new standard of care, I'm also cutting out the money and investments made by my competitors for their now useless treatment. That's a financial double win here.

The reason you don't find as many cures? It's really fucking hard to make one. I don't work in pharma but I have a lot of close friends who do, and they cannot stress this fact enough. It's hard, it's time consuming, there's an insane failure rate and that doesn't count all the regulatory testing.

Dr. Jeremy Stone: In theory, I suppose a single organism could do it.

Dr. Mark Hall: But, in fact, there isn't an organism on Earth...

Dr. Jeremy Stone: You mean there didn't used to be.

Good Afternoon Charles,
Well, where to begin. First of all, I categorically disagree with virtually everything you and Prof. Ashton said.

Second, I recommend reading this article regarding the experimental treatment and ebola:


It's important to note that these 2 American victims were treated in Liberia with this therapy and it is hotly debated whether it should have been administered at all. They probably wouldn't have been treated in the USA with it.

Third and finally, it's way too small of a space and time consuming to refute everything you and Prof. Ashton wrote. But, I will say a few things.

-Ebola was discovered relatively recently (1976) and has relatively few victims. It's exceedingly difficult to determine when to invest time, effort & money on a virus/disease that is comparatively rare. But, work is being done on it in both the private & public sector.

-Racism, neoliberalism, colonialism etc. have little if anything to do with the spread of this deadly virus. Nature and human behavior do. Searching for blame is I believe, a waste of time. What's needed is containment and a cure.

-Lastly, one doesn't have to be religious to note the missions sponsored by largely Christian denominations (Protestant, Catholic, Mormon etc.) roughly since 1840 in Africa have benefited the African continent. Hundreds of hospitals have been built and are still run by missioners. I believe Africans (all of them black, white, Arab etc.) arguably millions, have better health as a result.

These two health care givers went to Liberia to render assistance unselfishly. They are now gravely ill. Let's wish them well. This deadly calamity, ebola needs to be controlled and eradicated. Prof. Ashton does no service politicizing this tragedy.

There is much more to said but again, I respectfully and strongly with you, Charles and Prof. Ashton.
I hear there was no disease, war, slavery or misery in Africa before Europeans showed up. It's true. I read it on a bathroom wall once.

...btw, how much $$ has Chucky-Cheese given to organizations looking for a cure or who help in treatment?

and how much(or really, how little) does socialist chucky pay in fed income tax? answer: not very fucking much.
There are a fair number of liberal white Christians. But that would be a fact, something Charles has little interest in.
"brilliant biologist Mae-Wan Ho"

bhhhaaahahahahahahahaahaaaaaaaaaaaaahhahaaaaaa *gasp* bhaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha*gasp* *pant* aaahahhahaaaaahhhhhh

Ahhh Charles please stop writing about anything vaguely close to science, you just end up embarrassing yourself
@32 "one doesn't have to be religious to note the missions sponsored by largely Christian denominations (Protestant, Catholic, Mormon etc.) roughly since 1840 in Africa have benefited the African continent"

Are you an idiot or what ?

Go and tell the Native Americans that colonization and forced conversion has benefitted much the American continent. How they'll laugh at you.

What makes you think that stuff done by the like-minded people in the 'more remote' African continent has been less worse ?

Don't you know that the movie Apocalypse Now was adapted from Conrad's book Heart of Darkness, depicting Africa at the turn of the 20th century - not Vietnam in the 60s, for fuck's sake ?
Nope, I'm not an idiot.
My suggestion is you visit the continent of Africa. I lived there for three and a half years and have visited since. Mission hospitals do benefit Africans.

And, I've read "Heart of Darkness" and "King Leopold's Ghost".

I do know something about Africa, Africans and health care.

Really, I do.
We really do owe it to Africa. I mean think about all the African scientists in African research institutions that have developed medical treatments for diseases effecting impoverished Europeans. For free. It's only fair.
The pharmaceutical industry makes drugs to sell to people who can pay. That's why they spend so much money investigating drugs for baldness, ED, and other first-world problems and so little on tropical diseases - they want money, and Africans don't have money, so they don't develop drugs for them.
Too much Koolaid, even sugar-free, is bad for you. You might want to switch to water for a while.

If the government is so wonderful, then why are all their programs basically failures. By now, poverty should be eliminated after almost 50 years of the "War on Poverty". Instead, you have Nancy Pelosi saying that larger numbers of people on welfare is good because it will "stimulate the economy" and create jobs.

By now, the "War on Drugs" should be about over, but instead millions of people are in jail and drugs are proliferating everywhere.

By now, we should see all the jobs just flowing out with nearly everyone working; but, instead, we see that more people are out of work now than before Obama started "stimulating" the economy. The only people who profit from liberal ideas are liberal politicians and liberal Corporate CEOs and Stock Market profiteers.

The government also doesn't create the majority of cures for disease. The majority comes from the private sector just as the only group that can create jobs that are productive are the private sector. No government job creates profit or stimulates the economy. They are drains on our economy.

i'm surprised the article isn't telling everyone the government should stop manufacturing guns to stop gun violence, because that's how it works right?