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Ebola Epidemic: Strategies for Prevention

21-Aug-2014.By: Admin

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Introduction

Dr. Kent Brantly, the American doctor who got infected with Ebola, released statement from his isolation bed from Emory University hospital, “I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease. One thing I have learned is that following God often leads us to unexpected places. When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients. I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them. I witnessed the horror firsthand, and I can still remember every face and name.” Hats off to this hero, May God bless him.

The growing epidemic of Ebola in Africa is a big cause for concern among the general public. The media coverage of this aggressive illness is not helping much. Though there is a truth to the aggressive and disturbing nature of Ebola, there is some hope nestled in our growing understanding of the infection. Although it has a high mortality but we have to look at folks who survived, what was the protective mechanism in these folks? In this article, we will look at the nature of this virus and what we can learn about protecting ourselves.

First recorded Ebola outbreak originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the year 1976 [1]. Since then, there have been over 20 outbreaks in various countries in Central and Western Africa. The mortality rate among infected persons during these outbreaks has been 50-90% [1]. High mortality rate has made Ebola virus one of the most aggressive infectious agent known to people. The recent outbreak in West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria has been the largest in the short history since our introduction to this virus [2]

Ebola is a relatively rare infection among humans. Fruit bats of Africa are believed to the original host of the Ebola virus. Human infections likely occur due to direct contact with blood or other body secretions of infected animals. “In Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest”[1]. Within the community, the infection spreads via human-to-human transmission. The routes of transmission are still limited to direct contact with blood and other body secretions of the infected or dead victims of Ebola [3]

The Ebola Infection

Upon contraction of the Ebola virus, the illness begins with flu-like symptoms, body aches, fatigue, headaches, and fever. Some may also develop a bruising rash on the skin, described as a hemorrhagic rash. In the later stages, these individuals develop loss of appetite, severe stomach ache, diarrhea with or without bleeding, and vomiting.[4] Hemorrhage and loss of blood are the most devastating aspects of the infection and often result in fatality. The infection runs its course within 14-21 days.[5] During this time, if the virus does not kill the infected person, the immune system of the person can overcome the disease.

Researchers have been able to shed a lot of light on how the Ebola virus affects the biology of the infected person. This may also shed some light on ways to defend against the infection. Ebola virus contains two very similar glycol-proteins (GPs); which form the interactive protein structure that appears on the surface of the virus.[5] The GPs bind to the receptor proteins located on the host human cells on various organs. Cells of the gastrointestinal tract, bloodstream, and immune system are the first to be affected by viral invasion. After invading the cell, virus over-takes the cell’s protein production and depletes the cell. Infection of circulating immune cells like monocytes and dendritic cells weakens the immune cells; because they are circulatory, these cells carry the virus to all parts of the body.[6] Viral activity also manipulates these cells to create a high amount of inflammatory signaling molecules. In response to inflammation, endothelial cells of the blood vessels become more porous causing bleeding problems. The worst effects of the infection are seen on circulatory and immune system of the infected person. These effects result in the symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, and immune debility experienced by Ebola patients.

The Role of the Immune system and the Survival Factor

One arm of Ebola’s fatality weakens the immune system making it difficult for the body to mount a response. However, the body and the immune system are persistent for survival – research looking at the immune function of survivors and non-survivors is teaching us about nature’s best strategy to overcome. The first defensive response of the immune system is to recognize and bind to the viral proteins. This is a double-edged sword, because this is also the easiest way for the cell to become infected. The surveillance immune cells (B-cells) bind to the virus and produce IgM antibodies to recruit other immune cells to neutralize the virus.[7]Antiviral T-cell lymphocytes become involved; these produce IgG antibodies that reinforce the defensive action against the virus. Production of IgM and IgG antibodies represent virus-specific signals for the immune system to identify and eliminate the virus.

Studies that compared immune systems of survivors with the immune function of non-survivors of Ebola illustrate the differences in immune activity. Among survivors of Ebola infections during a 1996 outbreak in Gabon; it was found that these individuals had a greater concentration of IgM and IgG antibodies7    and also had more sustained antiviral T-cell response. Comparatively, all of these were deficient among the non-survivors. The immune system of the non-survivors was slower to respond, thus sustained greater loss due to death of immune cells – this resulted in ultimate fatality.[7]

In a study of 2000-2001 Ebola outbreak in Gulu, Uganda; researchers looked at similar parameter of the immune system [8]. In this study, the researcher looked at the immune responses of blood samples from survivor and non-survivors of this outbreak. It was discovered that survivors had developed antibodies against various proteins on the virus. These antibodies were still active in the survivors after the infection had passed. In a 12 year follow-up study with the survivors, the immune systems still carried IgM antibodies against the viral proteins [9]. These individuals still produced a significant immune response to injected viral proteins over a decade after exposure to the illness.

These studies and others like them are recognizing the central role of the immune system in survival. For an infection like Ebola, which has no apparent clinical cure, natural reinforcement of the immune system may represent an oasis of hope in the desert of fear and panic.

Prevention is the best treatment: As far as we know, this virus is transmitted through bodily fluids, and it is not airborne. You are not going to contract this virus in flying or sitting next to Ebola infected person, unless you come in contact with blood, vomitus, stool, urine or get injected with an infected needle. Proper infection control techniques will be highly effective in controlling this disease. Even once you are in contact with these bodily fluids, washing with soap can be highly effective in warding off this infection, unless you have open wounds on your skin.

Natural strategies for a resilient immune system

Healthy nutrition is the best way to keep your immune system boosted. Diets that are high in a variety of vegetables and fruits are most beneficial. Fruits and vegetables are packed with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that support healthy enzymatic function in the body. A review of research indicates that fruits and vegetables in the diet support antioxidant, detoxification, immune activity and hormonal metabolism in the body.[10] Dietary mushrooms are a source of polysaccharides like β-glucan, which directly modulate activity of the immune system [11]. An average healthy diet must include up to 4-5 servings of a variety of vegetables every day; and 1-2 servings of fresh fruits every day.

Exercise is an important foundation of health. Exercising supports the immune system through its physiological and mechanical effects on the body. Exercise can help flush out infective agents and cancer-causing toxins by promoting the elimination of waste through urine and sweat [12]. It improves circulation of in general – promoting circulation of immune cells and antibodies through all parts of the body. In a research study, moderate exercise performed over 12-15 weeks reduced the number of sick days by half [13]. On the other hand; excessive rigorous exercise can weaken the body’s defenses. Moderate exercise includes 30-40 minutes of brisk walk 4-5 days every week.

Sleep is one the most healing aspects of daily life. It is the one time when the anabolic (building) functions in the body outpace the catabolic (destructive) functions in the body. Undisturbed sleep can be one of the most regenerative activities that an individual can have every day. Sleep is part of the sleep-wake cycle that helps to balance the circadian rhythm of hormones and physiological activity of the body. This aspect of sleep has a powerful regulatory effect on immune function of the individual; [14]. More specifically, sleep has been shown to improve communication between immune cells and improve immunological memory.

Stress is a natural part of life that is an essential motivator survival and change. However, excessive stress and inadequate stress management can become detrimental to health. Just like a stretched rubber-band loses its elasticity over time, a stressed system loses its immunity as well. Chronic stress can make a weak immune system even weaker, increasing susceptibility to disease [15]. Simple stress relieving activity like exercise, deep breathing, yoga, and joyful recreational activity must be incorporated into daily life to induce effective transition into a relaxed state.

Immune support is the next line of protection that adds to the benefits of daily activity. It is well-accepted that protein calorie malnutrition impairs host immunity with particular detrimental effects on the T-cell system, resulting in increased opportunistic infection and increased morbidity and mortality in hospitalized patients [16]. In a series of experiments in normal animals, amino acids were demonstrated to enhance cellular immune mechanisms, in particular T-cell function. They also had a marked immune-preserving effect in the face of immunosuppression induced by protein malnutrition and increases in tumor burden.

Amino acids like Glycine, Arginine, Methionine, have been recognized as playing a role in the enhancement of immune function [17]. They have been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of infectious morbidity and mortality in seriously ill patients, due to their ability to maintain the integrity of the intestinal mucosal epithelium [18]. It has also been suggested that amino acids influences the growth of immune cells, T helper function and responsiveness, and synthesis of immunoglobulin A (IgA).

ASTYMIN, is a unique blend of all essential amino acids. All the amino acids are in the L-form, which is the most active form. The Liquid is pleasantly flavored, and the capsules are made by a patented ‘marumarisation’ technology to ensure maximal absorption. Astymin is also available as drops for babies.

Conclusion

In the midst of worries of a global epidemic, immune boosters like ASTYMIN offers some very helpful and applicable strategies for protecting oneself. Simple life-promoting daily activities can help the individuals maintain a strong immune system. Following nature’s wisdom is the ideal way to bring balance and health; this is the first step to effective prevention.

References

  • [1] World Health Organization. “Ebola Virus Disease” WHO Media Center, April 2014.
  • [2] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.” CDC.gov, Aug. 2014.
  • [3] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever: 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.” CDC.gov, Aug. 2014.
  • [4] Hensley LE, et al. Ebola and Marburg Viruses: Pathogenesis and Development of Countermeasures. Current Molecular Medicine 2005, Vol. 5, Pg. 761-772.
  • [5] Sullivan N, et al. Ebola Virus Pathogenesis: Implications for Vaccines and Therapies. Journal of Virology, Sept. 2003, Vol. 77(18), p. 9733–9737.
  • [6] Bente D, et al. Disease modeling for Ebola and Marburg viruses. Disease Models & Mechanisms 2, 12-17 (2009).
  • [7] Baize S, et al. Defective humoral responses and extensive intravascular apoptosis are associated with fatal outcome in Ebola virus-infected patients. Nat. Med., 1999; Vol. 5, Pg. 423-426.
  • [8] Sobarzo A, et al. Profile and persistence of the virus-specific neutralizing humoral immune response in human survivors of Sudan ebolavirus (Gulu). J Infect Dis. 2013 Jul 15; Vol. 208(2): Pg. 299-309.
  • [9] Sobarzo A, et al. Persistent Immune Responses after Ebola Virus Infection. N Engl J Med, 2013; Vol. 369, Pg. 492-493.
  • [10] Lampe JW. et al. Health effects of vegetables and fruit: assessing mechanisms of action in human experimental studies. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; Vol. 70(suppl), Pg. 475S–90S.
  • [11] Volman JJ. Immune modulation by dietary glucans from oat and mushrooms; results from in vitro, animal and human studies. Universitaire Pers Maastricht, 2010,
  • [12] Medline Plus Article. Exercise and Immunity. US National Library of Medicine: National Institute of Health. 2014,
  • [13] Neiman DC, Pederson BK. Exercise and Immune Function Recent Developments. Sports Med 1999 Feb; Vol. 27 (2), Pg. 73-80. 
  • [14] Besedovsky L. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch – Eur J Physiol (2012), Vol. 463, Pg. 121–137.
  • [15] Segerstrom S and Miller GE. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004 July; Vol. 130(4), Pg. 601–630
  • [16] Daly J. M. 1, Reynolds J, Sigal RK, Shou J, Liberman MD Effect of dietary protein and amino acids on immune function. Crit Care Med. 1990 Feb;18(2 Suppl):S86-93
  • [17] Li P, Yin YL, Li D, Kim SW, Wu G. Amino acids and immune function. Br J Nutr. 2007;98:237–252
  • [18] Pithon-Curi TC, Schumacher RI, Freitas JJ, Lagranha C, Newsholme P, Palanch AC, Doi SQ, Curi R. Glutamine delays spontaneous apoptosis in neutrophils. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol.2003;284:C1355–C1361

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Last Updated: 30-Jun-2016 07:39 PM

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