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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ZMapp Cure for Ebola - So, Why 932 Dead?

News reports for the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are claiming that the death toll so far for this horrible, worst ever in history Ebola virus outbreak has reached 932 only six months after the first reported case in February. It now appears to be spreading at an alarming rate with over 1600 infected.

But as soon as two Americans got infected, emergency doses of the experimental drug ZMapp were administered, the patients were flown out of the country and they appear to be recovering well in an Atlanta hospital. Meanwhile, many more West Africans are continuing to be infected from this dreadful virus and dying faster than body bags can be shipped into the country.

The Ebola virus symptoms are very similar to many other illnesses, starting with fever, rash, sore throat, headaches, body aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It quickly moves onto internal bleeding, respiratory failure and death. It is not an air-borne virus. It can only be contracted through direct contact from bodily fluids like sweat, blood, urine, saliva and semen.

Mapp Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. developed the drug known as ZMapp by combining laboratory developed tobacco proteins with mice antibody cells and a couple of other older drugs. The testing of certain components of this drug on monkeys infected with Ebola showed great promise, but clinical trials on humans weren't planned until next year.

The two American patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and Ms. Nancy Writebol agreed along with their doctors in Liberia to try the drug despite the potential for unknown risks. So this was a selective situation on two people who knew the risks and considered the alternative to be worse knowing that there is an over 70% fatality rate with the Ebola virus. However, the FDA has not given approval for wide distribution.

It has given an emergency approval for an Ebola test, but not for distribution of the drug itself. Mapp Bio. isn't even ready for the drug to go through clinical trials yet, never mind seek approval from the FDA for dispensing. Even when that does happen, approval and permission to dispense in West Africa has to go through the offices of the Ministry of Health Ethical Committee in each country that wants the drug.

This overwhelming "red tape" process will likely cost the lives of many West Africans. And the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed great concern that this outbreak could very well become a global threat. Will the process for getting the drug approved be speeded up if that happens? Time will tell. A bigger concern might be...what are the side effects of this drug going to be? (Hopefully not more suicidal thoughts and tendencies)

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