Why Not Oxygen Therapy for Ebola?

Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 10:47 AM

By William Maxfield, M.D.

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For the past few weeks, the news on television and radio has been filled with stories about an outbreak of Ebola, a deadly viral disease that causes fevers and hemorrhaging, along with impaired kidney and liver function. There is no treatment for Ebola, though a new drug administered in the current West Africa outbreak has showed some promise. The American doctor and missionary who were given the drug are now back in the U.S., being treated at Emory University in Atlanta. 
 
My question is this: Because we know that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has been effective in treating viral diseases such as viral meningitis, why has this therapy not been tried for treating Ebola?
 
Hyperbaric oxygen has been very effective as an adjunct for treating other infectious diseases. Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection of the brain, has responded well to hyperbaric medicine. It also works very well in treating MRSA, a strain of staph infection that has become resistant to antibiotics.
 
One example of the benefits of HBOT in treating infections is the case of a young man that had one leg blown off in Iraq and the second leg severely injured. He was in and out of military hospitals for two years before being admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The surgeons there told the young man that because of a MRSA infection, they were going to have to remove his remaining leg.
 
Fortunately, friends of this young man suggested he check out of Bethesda and to go to the University of Maryland, where he could undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy. He went to the University of Maryland and was given 23 hyperbaric oxygen treatments. That, along with antibiotics he was receiving, controlled the MRSA. 
 
Five years later, he is still walking on that leg.
 
The HBOT treatment proved to be very cost-effective as well: The 23 treatments provided in the hospital cost approximately $23,000. On the other hand, the cost of a leg amputation is about $90,000, plus the ongoing maintenance costs for a prosthesis. Not only did the young man’s friends’ recommendation save his leg, it also saved him money.
 
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy stimulates the growth of stem cells, increasing the stem cell population eightfold with a series of treatments. This therapy should be absolutely be considered as an adjunct to the experimental drug that is now being used to treat Ebola, and should also be considered for people who have survived an Ebola infection, if they have been left with a physical or mental disability.
 

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William Maxfield, M.D., is a board-certified physician in hyperbaric medicine, radiology, and nuclear medicine. He has served on the faculties of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Tulane University School of Medicine, and LSU Medical School.
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