6 Aug 2014

Secret Serum saved US Ebola victims’ lives

The two American doctors who have caught Ebola have been treated with a new "secret serum" which could potentially save their lives. 

The US-based doctors, Dr Kent Brantly and Dr Nancy Writebol, fell ill in Liberia while treating patients infected with the deadly disease.

While there remains no cure for the virus, a representative from the US National Institutes of Health contacted Samaritan's Purse – the charity they worked for in Liberia – and offered the experimental treatment, known as ZMapp.



The treatment is said to work by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.

A source close to the Atlanta hospital, where Dr Brantly is being treated, told CNN: "Within an hour of receiving the medication, Brantly's condition was nearly reversed. His breathing improved; the rash over his trunk faded away."

One of his doctors reportedly described the events as "miraculous."

By the next morning, Dr Brantly was able to take a shower on his own before getting on a specially designed Gulfstream air ambulance jet to be evacuated to the United States.

Dr Writebol was also administrated with the drug, which was transported to Liberia in a special sub-zero container.

She showed a less remarkable recovery, but has since travel to the US on Tuesday to continue her treatment.

According to CNN, the drug was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical, based in California. The patients were told that this treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.

Four monkeys infected with Ebola survived after being given the serum within 24 hours of infection. Two of four additional monkeys that started the therapy within 48 hours after infection also survived. One monkey that was not treated died within five days of exposure to the virus.

"With no vaccines or therapeutics currently licensed to treat or prevent Ebola virus, MB-003 is a promising candidate for continued development," said Larry Zeitlin, president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical, in August 2013 – when the results were unveiled.

ZMapp has not been approved for human use, and has not even gone through the clinical trial process, which is standard to prove the safety and efficacy of a medication. The process by which the medication was made available to Dr Brantly and Dr Writebol is highly unusual.

Nancy Writebol, an American aid worker, is transported into Emory University Hospital, US on Tuesday completely covered.


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