Originally published September 27 2014
Ebola drug supplies wiped out worldwide
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) There are no more supplies of an experimental Ebola drug that has shown some possible effectiveness, and there will not be for months. The announcement was made by doctors treating Manuel Garcia Viejo, a Spanish missionary priest who was flown back to Spain for treatment after being diagnosed with Ebola.
Ebola is a viral disease transmitted by close contact with bodily fluids such as blood, diarrhea and vomit. It is fatal in 60-90 percent of cases, often causing massive bleeding. So far, more than 2,800 people have died in the ongoing Ebola epidemic in West Africa -- a greater death toll than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Months needed to make moreGarcia was the medical director of the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. He is the second Spanish missionary to contract the disease; priest Miguel Pajares was flown from Liberia to Spain on August 7, but died five days later.
Pajares was among seven humans to date to be treated with the experimental drug ZMapp, and one of two to die in spite of the treatment. These seven treatments wiped out supplies of the drug.
According to the manufacturer, San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, it currently takes months to manufacture even a small batch of the drug. This means that the treatment will not be available to most of the 20,000 people who are predicted to contract Ebola over the next few months.
ZMapp has not yet undergone clinical trials for its effectiveness in human beings; only the severity of the current outbreak led to its experimental use. But according to a study published in the journal Nature on August 29, the drug was 100 percent effective at curing the disease in a recent trial performed on 18 rhesus macaques, if given within five days of infection.
"The level of improvement was beyond my own expectation, I was quite surprised that the best combination would rescue animals as far as day five," said researcher Dr. Gary Kobinger of the Public Health Agency of Canada. "What was very exceptional is that we could rescue some of the animals that had advanced disease."
Because the disease progresses more slowly in humans, the researchers have speculated that ZMapp might work as late as nine to 11 days after infection. But without clinical trials, its effectiveness in humans will remain unknown.
"We know there is a point of no return where there is too much damage to major organs, so there's a limit," Dr. Kobinger said.
Not yet tested in humansLike other experimental Ebola drugs, ZMapp consists of a combination of antibodies (in this case, three) designed to stimulate the body's immune system to attack the infection.
"This is an incredible improvement on those earlier cocktails, to have 100% clearance and most importantly that clearance when they've started to show outward signs of infection," said virologist Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the study.
In response to the promising animal study, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on September 3 that it would award to Mapp Biopharmaceutical $24.9 million to manufacture more supplies of ZMapp, plus another $17.4 million to put the drug through the clinical trials required to receive FDA approval.
"I never thought that 40 years after I encountered the first Ebola outbreak, this disease would still be taking lives on such a devastating scale," said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
"It is now critical that human trials start as soon as possible."
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