Experimental drug used to treat American doctor, aid worker with Ebola

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Atlanta, GA, United States (4E) – An experimental drug against Ebola never used on humans yet was injected on the American doctor and aid worker infected with the deadly virus.

The drug called ZMapp was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., based in San Diego and it proved effective in treating monkeys infected with Ebola. A representative from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) contacted humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia last week and offered the drug for Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the CNN reported.

Brantly, a volunteer doctor of SP, and Writebol, a volunteer aid worker for Serving in Mission (SIM), were helping treat Liberians infected with Ebola at a hospital in Monrovia when they got infected, too on July 22 and 25, respectively. SP agreed and three vials of the drug were flown to Liberia. Brantly and Writebol were given informed consent on the use of the ZMapp and were aware of the risk of taking the drug, according to sources caring for them.

ZMapp contains Ebola antibodies from mouse and it works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting healthy cells. The antibodies were generated after the mouse were exposed to the Ebola virus and then harvested to produce the drug.

In experiments, the drug was then injected on four monkeys that were exposed to Ebola within 24 hours of infection. Two more monkeys were injected with ZMapp 48 hours after infection with Ebola and one other monkey infected with the virus was not given the drug. The latter died after five days while the others survived.

Brantly was having difficulty breathing and thought he was dying when the drug was administered on him intravenously on Thursday. Within an hour, his condition improved dramatically and he was breathing easily. The following day, he was able to shower on his own and board the private ambulance plane that took him to the U.S. for further treatment. He was given a second dose of ZMapp at Georgia’s Emory University Hospital (EUH), where he is confined in an isolation unit.

Writebol also received one vial of ZMapp but her condition did not improve. Doctors administered the third and last vial of the drug flown to Liberia on Sunday and her condition improved. She could stand up, walk and eat, according to Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA.

Writebol is now being flown to the U.S. by the same plane that brought Brantly to Georgia on Saturday and she is expected to arrive Tuesday. Brantly still feels better and is in good spirits, his wife, Amber, said in a statement on Monday.

The ZMapp is not supposed to be used in the middle of the Ebola outbreak due to unknown risks on patients, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Gregory Hartl said. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows untested drugs to be used on humanitarian grounds, said FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao in an e-mail, according to Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, the WHO said 1,603 people have been infected with Ebola in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria since the first case of infection was detected in March. Of the number, 887 died.

The virus is transmitted via bodily fluids of infected people and symptoms appear 20 days later. The symptoms include headache, fever, flu, vomiting and diarrhea. The infected ‘s organs also bleed. From 50 to 90 percent of those infected die within days.

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