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Apr 16, 2020
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In Congo, the Ebola epidemic continues. Country experience will help in the fight against COVID-19

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, new cases of hemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola virus have been recorded. It is expected that experience with this ailment in 2016 - 2020 years will help the country cope with the new coronavirus.

The coronavirus is walking the planet. Meanwhile, African republics have long been familiar with the severity of natural focal diseases: it is believed that the natural hosts of ebolavirus are fruit-eating bats in the family of winged birds. Since August 2016, the DRC has been struggling with yet another epidemic that has already claimed its lives 2276 person (officially recorded cases). This is the longest Ebola epidemic in the history of the country (there was an epidemic in the region earlier 800 - years), from which Guinea and Liberia were the most affected). On Friday April came news of three new cases in Beni, North Kivu Province, DRC. Interestingly, at the time of the discovery of these patients, WHO was already preparing to abolish the status of an international public health emergency, that is, if simpler, declare the epidemic defeated. To cancel the status, it is necessary that 17 days have passed since the last positive virus test - this value is two incubation periods of the disease. But now the cancellation will not follow, and you need to prepare for new outbreaks, most likely small.

Three people became infected, the source remains unidentified, two residents of the city and one of their acquaintances . Two of the three died. All people who were contacted by the new infected were found and are being monitored.

In addition to Ebola, measles, malaria and cholera, and now a new coronavirus, are periodically recorded in the country infection. Most hospitals are privately owned and funded by international organizations, but there are not enough. There is a ray of light in the dark realm: medical personnel have vast experience working with viral epidemics, have special equipment and experience in communicating with village communities. And this is very important for confronting diseases in the communities of central Africa, because one of the main obstacles in the fight against epidemics there is the distrust of residents towards state representatives, local authorities, as well as to physicians coming from cities and generally to anyone who, by one or another criterion , can be defined as a "stranger." The distrust is due to the fact that the territories are controlled by local armed groups, which attack villages with enviable constancy. They mainly control the illegal mines built into the supply chain of transnational corporations, and the villages around them. Residents see that the state does not have power, moreover, sometimes it even acts as a punitive force acting along with bandits. Being forced to deal with a third force as well - international volunteers, residents do not know who to believe, and often they refuse both the state and NGOs access to the bodies of the dead for their safe cremation, to their family homes for their disinfection, and to their bodies - for immunization. If doctors are trying to force something to do, then they meet resistance - up to tragic cases.

Representatives of the UN and WHO from the local population all this time tried to convey to the communities that vaccination is good, that trusting serious medical matters to “spirits” is not worth it. And, it seems, they are making great progress - for example, now, in the situation of the spread of coronavirus, people have heeded the advice to maintain social distance - at least in the streets and in the markets. So far, in the DRC, all 42 cases of a new infection. True, we are only talking about established cases: what is happening in the territories, to one degree or another, not controlled by the state and still not allowing “visiting” doctors to their patients, one can only guess.

Ebola and Nuclear Technology

IN 2014 - 2014, when another Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in partnership with WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO) provided on support to local physicians in the diagnosis of Ebola. In particular, veterinarians have also been taught how to diagnose the virus so that they can control the spread of the virus in animals (the ebolavirus is extremely illegible and, in addition to bats and humans, infects monkeys, pigs, antelopes) and warn the population about the imminent danger.

The IAEA trained 96 local staff at 10 trainings in 8 African countries to use nuclear technology in medicine, and also provided the appropriate equipment . Such methods are advantageous in that they can be used to instantly detect the presence of a virus. And in the case of doctors in African regions, speed is important, as patients can escape immediately after they have taken a sample for testing. The reason is the fear that doctors might harm them. Residents can also simply leave for another village during that week while standard diagnostics are performed using PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Therefore, it is so important to have instant diagnosis methods. There are two such methods that use nuclear technology - enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in real time (RT-PCR).

The ELISA method is quite simple to use. Researchers place a diluted blood serum sample of an animal or person on a microtiter plate previously coated with a specific antigen (viral particles or parts of them that are relevant for recognition). If the sample contains antibodies against the diagnosed disease, they will bind to the antigen and the fluorescent marker (label made using the radioactive isotope) used in the procedure will change the color of the liquid.

Микротитровальный планшет.
Microtiter tablet.
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RT-PCR is a method that requires more serious equipment, and the procedure itself is more complicated than ELISA. But it is well suited to identify specific viral and bacterial genomes. Its principle of operation is this: within half an hour, a certain section of the viral genome is copied and amplified several billion times. Then, using radioisotopes, by measuring fluorescence, scientists work with this part of the genome.

The technology of testing for coronavirus using RT-PCR and ELISA is now available. Now that this pathogen has arrived in the country, the DRC may benefit from previous experience with these technologies.

By the way, Russian officials 14 April promised that ELISA testing will appear in the country through days), although earlier there were other dates that have already passed.

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