The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

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moscow — As funerals were held
Monday for five nuclear workers
killed while testing a new missile,
Russian officials said they will try
to determine what went wrong
and how to avoid another such
accident in the future.
The weapon prototype they
were testing relies on small-scale
power sources being developed by
the Russian Federal Nuclear Cen-
ter that use “radioactive materi-
als, including fissile and radioiso-
tope materials,” the scientific di-
rector of the center, Vyacheslav
Soloviev, said in a video broadcast
by a television station in Sarov,
where the research institute is
“We’re analyzing the whole
chain of events to assess both the
scale of the accident and to under-
stand its causes,” Soloviev said.
The missile exploded Thursday
evening in the Arkhangelsk re-
gion in Russia’s far north. Three
nuclear workers who were in-
jured have been hospitalized in
The explosion of liquid rocket
fuel, on a platform in Dvinsky Bay,
threw several of those who died
into the water, reported the Rus-
sian nuclear agency, Rosatom. A
“short-term” spike in radiation
levels was reported Friday by offi-
cials in the city of Severodvinsk,
near the testing site, but that
report was removed from the Web
later that day. Dvinsky Bay al-
ready had been closed to shipping
ahead of the missile test, and it
will remain so until Sept. 10.
The Serebryanka, a nuclear
fuel cargo ship, has been at the
test site since last week, according
to several reports. Nuclear ex-
perts have speculated that it may
be recovering radioactive debris
from the bottom of the bay.
American and independent
Russian observers have suggested
that the weapon being tested
could have been a nuclear-
powered cruise missile, which
President Vladimir Putin boasted
about last year. The Americans
call it the SSC-X-9 Skyfall; Russia
has named it the 9M730 Burevest-
nik. Such a missile, if successfully
developed, could fly intricate
courses and stay in the air for
many hours as it hunted a target.

President Trump tweeted Mon-
day that the United States is
“learning much from the failed
missile explosion. We have simi-
lar, though more advanced, tech-
Also Monday, Valentin Kostyu-
kov, director of the center in Sa-
rov, said on local television that
researchers from the institute had
been working at the northern test
site for a year. Rosatom’s chief,
Alexei Likhachev, said work on
the new weapon would continue,
without specifying what that
weapon is.
Sarov, a closed town about 250
miles east of Moscow that has
been a center of nuclear research
since 1946, was rocked by news of
the accident in the far north.
Sergei Kirienko, first deputy
chief of staff to Putin, attended the
funeral, as did the governor of the
region and the chiefs of the nu-
clear program. Kirienko said the
dead workers would be given
posthumous state awards.
“There’s a brotherhood” at the
institute, said Alexander Cherni-
shev, deputy scientific director of
the center. In planning for the
risks associated with the missile
tests, he said, “I must say, what
happened was not foreseen.”
Speaking at the outdoor funer-
al, Kirienko said: “They took a
double responsibility: In addition
to developing unique technol-
ogies and unique products, they
took the physical risk of conduct-
ing the tests, in which, unfortu-
nately, no matter how much you
calculate in advance, no matter
how much you prepare, it is im-
possible to eliminate the risk
100 percent. They as professionals
knew this very well, but they took
this risk, understanding that no
one could do it better than them.”
Last month, a top-secret Rus-
sian nuclear submersible was
badly damaged in a fire while in
the Barents Sea, killing 14 high-
ranking naval officers. The Kom-
mersant newspaper reported that
a lithium-ion battery may have
sparked a fire on the vessel.
Monday also marked the
19th anniversary of the sinking of
the Kursk, a Russian nuclear-
powered submarine. All 118 per-
sonnel aboard died after the ves-
sel settled on the bottom.

Russia mourns 5 killed

working on new missile


Two experimental Ebola treat-
ments significantly increase sur-
vival rates for those infected with
a disease often considered a
death sentence, scientists an-
nounced Monday, providing
fresh hope for containing an out-
break that has ravaged eastern
The drugs, tested in a nearly
nine-month clinical trial, have
performed so well that health
professionals will now adminis-
ter them to every patient in
“It’s the first example that a
therapeutic intervention can
have a dramatic effect on de-
creasing the mortality of the
Ebola virus disease,” Anthony S.
Fauci, director of the National
Institute of Allergy and Infec-
tious Diseases, said in an inter-
Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tam-
fum, a Congolese doctor who has
spent his career researching
Ebola treatments and oversaw
the trial on the ground, said in a
conference call Monday that he
“could not have imagined” that
such a day would come.
“From now on, we will no
longer say that Ebola is incur-
able,” he said.
But in a place where suspicion
of health workers and violent
conflict are widespread, finding
effective medical therapies is
only half the battle, experts say.
The outbreak — the world’s
second-worst — has infected
nearly 2,800 people and killed
nearly 1,900 since it began a year
ago. The World Health Organiza-
tion designated it a “public health
emergency of international con-
cern” last month.
The new therapies were tested
in a multi-drug, randomized,
controlled trial conducted on the
front lines of the Ebola outbreak
since November. Researchers ad-
ministered one of four drugs to
the 681 patients who had partici-
pated in the study as of Friday.
When a monitoring group de-

termined that two of those drugs
were vastly outperforming the
others based on data from 499
patients, scientists called off the
study and said they would exclu-
sively treat Ebola patients with
the more effective drugs going
The two antibody-based treat-
ments, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114,
work by blocking a critical pro-
tein in the Ebola virus. Patients
receive them once, intravenously,
and “ideally, as soon as possible”
after infection, Fauci said.
They saved about 90 percent of
patients with low levels of infec-
tion, according to preliminary
data released from the trial.
Across all levels of infection, pa-
tients who received REGN-EB
had a mortality rate of 29 per-
cent, while those treated with
mAb-114 had a mortality rate of
34 percent. The average mortality
rate for Ebola has been about
50 percent, according to the
These rates were far enough
below those of the two other
treatments — including ZMapp,
first tested in the 2014 West
Africa outbreak — that scientists
decided to end the trial early.

Now, all Ebola patients will re-
ceive one of the two more effec-
tive drugs.
“This underscores the impor-
tance of doing randomized, con-
trolled trials. You can get ethical-
ly sound and scientifically sound
information rapidly,” Fauci said.
He added, “Now you can get
the two best antibodies quickly to
the people who need them.”
Fauci said that based on cur-
rent infection levels, medical pro-
fessionals on the ground in Con-
go have sufficient stores of both
drugs to administer them to all
infected people.
While they heralded the fact
that this groundbreaking re-
search took place in the turbulent
environment of eastern Congo,
researchers also acknowledged
that social and political factors
will complicate health workers’
ability to get these new drugs to
Efforts to treat Ebola have
been hampered by widespread
distrust of health workers among
residents of eastern Congo.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO
director general, said last month
that more than 200 health profes-
sionals had been attacked since

January and several had been
The region is also a conflict
zone, and attacks by armed
groups have at times forced
health workers to pause their
efforts. So even though these two
new drugs have a high likelihood
of curing patients, violence and
misinformation may prevent
many of those infected from ac-
cessing them.
“The success is clear, but there
is also a tragedy linked to this
success, and the tragedy is that
not enough people are being
treated,” said Michael J. Ryan,
executive director of the WHO
Health Emergencies Program.
“We are still seeing too many
people stay away from Ebola
treatment units, too many people
not coming to hospitals [who] are
not being found in time to benefit
from these therapies,” he added.
Muyembe Tamfum called it a
“huge responsibility” to make the
drugs accessible to infected peo-
“This is our moral responsibili-
ty and a lifelong burden on our
shoulders that we are ready to
assume with pride,” he said.

2 drugs prove e≠ective against Ebola

Health workers in protective suits help a suspected Ebola patient into a treatment center in Goma,
Congo, on Aug. 3. Amid violence and distrust, getting new drugs to all patients will be a challenge.

Treatments increase
survival, will be given
to all patients in Congo

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