Odd Thoughts: Ebola gives Harper scientific boost

When it comes to anti-science, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government runs at the front of the pack.

One of the things he and his reason-denying crew cannot be accused of, however, is making an error in the race to create an Ebola treatment.

We Canadians love to find ways to be superior to our American neighbours.

But sometimes we’re not really all that superior after all.

The Ebola treatment is an example of that misperception.

In fact, a much-touted Ebola treatment developed by Canadians and subsequently given away to an American company by the Harper government wasn’t actually developed by Canadians.

At least, not just by Canadians.

This isn’t about the vaccine developed in Canada – one of two global efforts that have shown promise in the race to stop or at least slow a horrific disease whose death count passed the 10,000 mark in mid-March. (And if it is currently on the wane, who knows when it will strike again?)

But the story of ZMapp, a vaunted antidote to Ebola, is basically the same as that of the vaccine that raised the ires of those who didn’t really need yet another excuse to find fault with the HarpoCons.

ZMapp, the Ebola wonder drug, is the conclusion of a program indeed started by a Canadian company – a bio-weapons research company supported by the Canadian government, as well as by American interests, including government agencies and private concerns.

All nationalistic interests aside, the important thing here was to race as quickly as possible to the conclusion of an effective drug, and the development of as much of the antidote as possible.

Plainly speaking, we Canadians were not capable of reaching that goal in a reasonable amount of time, with thousands of people dying in Africa.

Further, to this day, it is not clear whether or not the drug has a statistically beneficial effect against Ebola.

Even with superior American financial resources at their disposal, scientists were not able to produce enough of the drug to build a statistically viable trial in humans.

A trial in macaque monkeys indicated substantial benefits, but subsequent treatment of seven humans (using up all of the available drug) only hinted at benefits. 

It was simply too small a trial to be sure of the results, in any case.

On an interesting side note, the seven humans who were subjected to trial with the anti-Ebola drug were American and European, while thousands of Africans were dying.

I know what you’re thinking. I thought that, too, at first. 

Why didn’t they treat Africans with the small amount of drug they had available? Damned Americans taking care of themselves again.

But then I thought, what if they had tested it on Africans? 

You can be sure the headlines would then have read, “Dying Africans used as guinea pigs in American drug trials.”

So now we Canadians are angry at Harper and the Americans for “stealing” drugs “we” developed while the Africans are angry that the Americans treated their own people first.

No good deed goes unpunished.

We Canadians should just be proud that our bio-weapons industry got the ball rolling.

That is, if any bio-weapons industry is something to be proud of.

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