Annette Rid, Ezekiel J Emanuel
The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 22 August 2014 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61315-5
The outbreak of Ebola virus raging in west Africa is special in two respects. First, with more than 2100 infections and 1100 deaths, it has already become the most severe and largest documented Ebola outbreak. It is also occurring in some of the world's least developed countries, and is therefore extremely complex to address. Second, experimental interventions that are still in the preclinical trial phase—and hence untested in human beings—were first given to health-care workers from high-income countries, focusing extensive attention and controversy on investigational treatments and vaccines for Ebola.
The rapidly evolving situation raises three fundamental questions: how much emphasis should the international community place on experimental interventions in response to the Ebola epidemic; what are the ethical considerations if experimental treatments or vaccines are deployed; and if any interventions prove safe and effective, how can they be made more widely available?