The scientific basis for using the essential nutrient selenium in the treatment of Ebola (Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever)

Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D.
October 2, 2014  (Updated October 22, 2014)

Recent events have moved the study of the essential nutrient selenium in treating Ebola from the laboratory to the clinic. Media reports have disclosed that selenium is now an important part of the successful treatment of Ebola by several African clinics. The scientific basis for needing selenium supplementation in the treatment protocols is given following this brief summary of some of the recent reports.

In an October 10 Front Page Africa article, Victor C. Hanson, Jr. reports thatSpeaking to journalists at the ELWA Hospital, CASE-Liberia Secretary General, Pailet Johnson said, "It has been discovered that the "miracle drug" selenium has contributed to many people walking out of the Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU)."

“Secretary General Johnson added that he was told by Dr. Jerry Brown that they (doctors) are still studying the drug so that he cannot come out to say it is the cure but rather contributing to the release of many patients. He stated, "We want to encourage everyone that if we have more we will continue to do it with other resource partners that we have and network partners for CASE-Liberia. We will keep knocking on those doors and as we get them, we will bring them in and donate them to the hospital to assist in saving more lives".

Whole Foods Magazine reports in its November 2014 issue (online 10/1/14).


Front Page Africa has reported on September 8 that an ELWA2 Ebola Isolation Unit in Monrovia, Liberia, discharged 50 individuals who recovered from the disease in the past two months. One of the many supplies used to help patients has been selenium mixed with chloroquine, a malaria drug. Physician Rick Sacra, an American aid worker who was transported to the United States after contracting Ebola and who recovered, was given selenium as part of his treatment; treatment also included experimental Ebola drugs, electrolytes and other therapies, according to 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s National Public Radio news station.


“Front Page Africa recently cited some information from WholeFoods science editor Richard A. Passwater, Ph.D. about selenium, including an October 1996 Vitamin Connection column featuring an interview with Will Taylor, Ph.D., now a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, discussing selenium research.


The same column was also referenced in the August 31 edition of Modern Ghana. Another background article is  “Selenium and Viral Diseases: Facts and Hypotheses,” (September 28, 1997).

According to Passwater, “I have recently been contacted by researchers seeking additional information and even a supply of selenium supplements, which have suddenly become in short supply in much of West Africa. The Voice of America and church groups have called for selenium supplements to be sent to Africa.”

He adds, “We also remind readers that this is preliminary research and no clinical results or pharmaceutical claims are made or implied for this nutrient…”


The Scientific Basis for Selenium and Ebola

The role of selenium in reducing the risk of being infected by Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever virus in not immediately obvious. It took the brilliant research of Dr. Will Taylor to elucidate that the Ebola virus encodes selenium compounds for reproduction and that it steals the required selenium from its host. The transfer of this “theoretical” knowledge from Dr. Taylor’s laboratory to actual practice in the emergency clinic appears to have spearheaded by Dr. Jerry Brown of the ELWA2 Ebola Isolation Unit in Monrovia, Liberia.


The reason that this hemorrhagic virus in named Ebola is that it arises from a very selenium-deficient area around the Ebola River in West Africa. People living in this region are not well-nourished with the essential nutrient selenium. When the selenium-robbing Ebola virus infects someone, it lowers that person’s selenium levels to an unprecedented level resulting in hemorrhaging in most organs. This is not too unlike what happens in scurvy when the body is essentially depleted of vitamin C.  Replenishing the patient with adequate selenium to prevent the hemorrhaging reduces the infection to that or a routine viral infection.

In review, here are the main facts:

·        The Ebola region is selenium-depleted.

·        Inhabitants are normally low in selenium to begin with.

·        Ebola virus requires huge amounts of selenium to replicate. (Discovered by Dr. Will Taylor)

·        The Ebola virus robs selenium from the infected person’s body stores of selenium.

·        This results in the patient becoming unprecedentedly deficient in selenium to the point of multiple organ hemorrhaging which results in death.

·        Restoring the patient’s selenium reserves can stop the deadly hemorrhaging.