Elizabeth Cohen* A doctor in rural Liberia inundated with Ebola patients says he’s had good results with a treatment he tried out of sheer desperation: an HIV drug.
Dr. Gobee Logan has given the drug, lamivudine, to 15 Ebola patients, and all but two survived. That’s a 7% mortality rate.
Across West Africa, the virus has killed 70% of its victims.
Outside Logan’s Ebola center in Tubmanburg, four of his recovering patients walk the grounds, always staying inside the fence that separates the Ebola patients from everyone else.
“My stomach was hurting; I was feeling weak; I was vomiting,” Elizabeth Kundu, 23, says of her bout with the virus. “They gave me medicine, and I’m feeling fine. We take it, and we can eat — we’re feeling fine in our bodies.”
Kundu and the other 12 patients who took the lamivudine and survived, received the drug in the first five days or so of their illness. The two patients who died received it between days five and eight.
“I’m sure that when [patients] present early, this medicine can help,” Logan said. “I’ve proven it right in my center.”
Logan is mindful that lamivudine can cause liver and other problems, but he says it’s worth the risk since Ebola is so deadly.
He also knows American researchers will say only a real study can prove effectiveness. That would involve taking a much larger patient population and giving half of them lamivudine and the other half a placebo.
“Our people are dying and you’re taking about studies?” he said. “It’s a matter of doing all that I can do as a doctor to save some people’s lives.”
Logan said he got the idea to try lamivudine when he read in scientific journals that HIV and Ebola replicate inside the body in much the same way.
“Ebola is a brainchild of HIV,” he said. “It’s a destructive strain of HIV.”
At first he tried an HIV drug called acyclovir, but it didn’t seem to be effective. Then he tried lamivudine on a healthcare worker who’d become ill, and within a day or two he showed signs of improvement and survived.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says that theoretically, Logan’s approach has some merit. Lamivudine is a nucleocide analog, and other drugs in this class are being studied to treat Ebola.
Fauci asked CNN to give Logan his email address, saying perhaps his lab could do some follow up work.
Logan says he plans to email Fauci this weekend.