Nigeria plans to use a drug marketed and used in Kenya to manage HIV to treat six of its people who have been infected with Ebola. By Friday, 10 cases of Ebola had been confirmed in Nigeria, four of whom have died and 169 under surveillance. Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu has said those infected will receive an experimental drug called Nano Silver.
On Thursday, the minister told a press conference that an unidentified Nigerian scientist living overseas was offering the country the experimental medicine. While Prof Chuku did not identify the said scientist, the product is distributed by an American group called Natural Solutions Foundation
The drug, which is readily available on the Internet, was introduced in Kenya in 2011 by a company known as Benir International (K) Ltd, which has offices at Piranha Centre, Mombasa Road. According Joseph Mureithi Kanyita, the Benir managing director, the product, which contains microscopic silver particles is a complementary medicine indicated to act against a wide spectrum of fungus, viruses, bacterium and other disease causing organisms.
Locally selling as NanoSil 10, it is indicated to be a supplement for boosting the immunity of people infected with HIV. The metal silver is known to kill germs and is widely used in coating of medical devices to protect against contamination. The NanoSil is indicated to contain extremely small (nano) particles of silver metal suspended in purified water
Speaking to the Standard on Sunday, Mr Mureithi said he was not aware of the Nigerian angle but said the product had properties for killing a wide range of viruses. “Currently we are not stocking the product but we do import on demand.” He said it also works well in suppressing HIV though they have never carried out any clinical trials, “so we cannot claim this to be a cure until this is done.”
But both the World Health Organisation (WHO)and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have reacted quickly to the Nigerian news, warning people not to be lured by rumours on the Internet about fraudulent Ebola cures. “All rumours of any effective products or practices are false. Their use can be dangerous. In Nigeria, for example, at least two people have died after drinking salt water, rumoured to be protective,” says the WHO in a statement.
The same day the Nigerian Health Minister was disclosing news of the experimental drug, the FDA also issued a strong warning about false Ebola cures. It threatened American companies with penalties if they continue making such claims.
Saturday, Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director general of the WHO, was quoted in the New York Times warning over the marketing or use of undocumented cures for Ebola. Last week, WHO allowed the use of a few untested treatments on people infected with Ebola. “Testing promising treatments doesn’t mean that any crazy idea that people have — things that have barely been tested in anything — will now be brought to Africa to test on patients. This is absolutely out of the question,” Dr Kieny said.
Nano Silver is for sale on the website of the Natural Solutions Foundation whose director is Rima E Laibow. Reacting to the FDA action on her website, Dr Laibow says she is preparing a special white paper later in the week to show that the regulatory authority is actually deceiving Africans.
In a letter Laibow wrote to the WHO last month and copied to all the four presidents of the Ebola infected countries of West Africa, she says the product could prove effective in treating Ebola. “Through the use of small doses of about half a teaspoon three times per day, of Nano Silver administered to Ebola victims, contacts and potential contacts, the disease can be eliminated,” says the letter also posted on the Foundation’s website.
She claims the product can treat various viral infections including HIV, hepatitis B, herpes simplex, respiratory virus, and monkey pox. The link between Nano Silver and Kenya goes back to several years as indicated in Laibow’s letter to the WHO and the presidents of Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. She tells of how she had addressed 47 African ministers of health in Mombasa in 2007, explaining to them how dangerous viruses such as HIV, Ebola and bird flu that are threatening the continent can be controlled.
While presenting a paper on ‘Pathogenesis of the Avian Flu and Public Health Measures to Prevent Widespread Death,” she tried to sell the idea of using Nano Silver in the control of such viruses. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has declared Ebola a national emergency, saying a sum of $11.6 million (Sh1.2 billion) will be released to prevent further spread of the disease.