Marburg and Ebola: A Comparison of Global Response Efforts

In recent decades, outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers have captured the attention of the world, with the Marburg and Ebola viruses being among the most dangerous.

Marburg and Ebola: A Comparison of Global Response Efforts
Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh / Unsplash

In recent decades, outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers have captured the attention of the world, with the Marburg and Ebola viruses being among the most dangerous. Both viruses belong to the Filoviridae family and cause severe illness with high mortality rates. In this blog post, we will compare the global response efforts to these two viruses, including measures taken to contain the outbreaks and provide medical care to affected individuals.

Background on Marburg and Ebola

The Marburg virus (MARV) is a hemorrhagic fever virus that causes Marburg virus disease in primates, including humans. The virus is considered extremely dangerous, with no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments. It is transmitted by exposure to one species of fruit bat or between people via body fluids through unprotected sex and broken skin.

Ebola virus (EBOV) also causes viral hemorrhagic fever, with symptoms similar to Marburg virus disease. Like Marburg, there are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments for Ebola, and it is transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids. There are five known species of Ebola virus, with the Zaire ebolavirus species being the most lethal.

Both viruses have caused outbreaks in multiple countries in Africa, with the most recent Ebola outbreak occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 2018 to 2020. The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex outbreak to date, with over 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

Global Response Efforts to Marburg and Ebola

Containment Measures

Containment measures are crucial in preventing the spread of Marburg and Ebola viruses. When an outbreak is detected, immediate isolation of infected individuals and tracing of their contacts are essential measures to control the spread of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) plays a central role in coordinating the global response to outbreaks of these viruses.

During the 2005 Marburg outbreak in Angola, WHO and other organizations provided technical support, including laboratory testing, epidemiological investigations, and training of healthcare workers. The response efforts also included public health messaging and community engagement to promote safe burial practices and prevent stigmatization of affected individuals and their families.

Similarly, during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, WHO and partners supported countries in implementing comprehensive outbreak response plans. These plans included the establishment of treatment centers, contact tracing, community engagement, and social mobilization activities. The use of mobile laboratories for rapid diagnosis and surveillance of the virus was also critical in the response efforts.

Medical Care

Medical care is essential in treating individuals infected with Marburg or Ebola virus. Early diagnosis and treatment of symptoms, including dehydration, can significantly increase survival rates. However, the lack of approved vaccines or antiviral treatments makes providing medical care during outbreaks challenging.

During the 2005 Marburg outbreak in Angola, healthcare workers used supportive care measures, such as intravenous fluids and blood transfusions, to treat infected individuals. Some patients received experimental treatments, including convalescent plasma therapy, which involves transfusing plasma from recovered patients into infected individuals.

During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, experimental treatments were also used, including the antiviral drug Remdesivir and ZMapp, an experimental antibody treatment. Additionally, a clinical trial of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine was conducted in Guinea in 2015, which showed high efficacy in protecting individuals against Ebola virus infection.

Research and Development

Research and development efforts for vaccines and treatments for Marburg and Ebola viruses have been ongoing for several decades. The development of effective vaccines and treatments is critical in preventing and controlling outbreaks of these viruses.

In the case of Ebola virus, several vaccines and treatments have been developed and are being used in outbreak settings. The first Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, was developed in 2014 and has been used in several outbreaks since then. Another vaccine, Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo, was developed more recently and has also been used in outbreak settings. In addition to vaccines, several treatments have been developed for Ebola virus, including monoclonal antibodies such as ZMapp and REGN-EB3.

Research and development efforts for Marburg virus have been more limited compared to Ebola virus, but there have been some promising developments in recent years. In 2019, a vaccine candidate for Marburg virus called rVSVĪ”G/MARVGP was developed and showed promising results in animal studies. There are also several ongoing studies to develop treatments for Marburg virus.

Overall, research and development efforts for Marburg and Ebola viruses are ongoing and have resulted in several effective vaccines and treatments. These efforts are critical in preventing and controlling outbreaks of these viruses, which can have devastating consequences for affected communities.

Further reading

The linked articles below can help you as you seek to learn more about Marburg Virus and Ebola: