Is Nano Silver Ebola's Snake Oil?

George Washington's last days in which he was bled (maybe to death?) 

George Washington's last days in which he was bled (maybe to death?) 

Every time an outbreak of a new lethal disease occurs, there is a search for effective medications. In some cases, drugs in development are available for early use, their potential effectiveness extrapolated from animal use. In other cases, existing drugs are repurposed based on pharmacology coupled to projected efficacy based on the characteristics of the pathogen (e.g. same viral family, etc).

However, history abounds with false cures more likely to cure than harm. Strychnine, mercury, and blood-letting are historical examples. In fact, blood letting is thought to have played a role in the death of George Washington who was suffering from a throat infection.

Unfortunately, the modern era is not free from such ill-fated efforts. Like the false cure forsythia hawked by Jude Law's tech-savvy blogger character in the movie Contagion, snake oil salesman come in all forms. In the 2000s, South African President Mbeki and his health minister "Dr. Beetroot"--in the midst of their nation's large HIV burden--repudiated scientifically validated and life-saving antiretrovirals in favor of lemon juice, beetroot, and garlic. You don't have to just imagine the consequences of this and the horrific "Virgin Cleansing Myth".

So when news reports emanating from the West African Ebola outbreak describe dubious therapies, it comes as no surprise. High dosages of salt and "Nano Silver" (on which I was interviewed in this article) are just the newest incarnations of a very old phenomenon.

While I laud efforts to find countermeasures against disease, basic biological plausiblity and following the rules of logic are a precondition to any true advance.