Two American Ebola patients received injections of an experimental serum that seems to be turning the tide on their conditions. One doctor even called it, “miraculous.”
CNN reports, “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.”
A San Diego-based research team at Mapp Biopharmaceutical developed the treatment called ZMapp. In August of last year, investigators at the nearby Scripps Research Institute announced the discovery of “the molecular mechanism by which the deadly Ebola virus assembles, providing potential new drug targets.
Zachary Bornholdt, Ph.D., Scripps senior staff scientist, wrote at that time, “drugs to block viral replication could target any of the structures themselves or the intermediate steps in the structural transformation process.”
The medicine, a monoclonal antibody, works by blocking cell receptors so the virus can’t spread.
ZMapp has not been approved for human use or gone through clinical trials; however, CNN believes permission was granted to administer the drug through a “compassionate use” exception from the FDA.
Reports indicate that Dr. Kent Brantly received the first dose in Liberia before being flown back to the US. Doctors there report his condition improved within an hour, deeming it “miraculous.” The second patient, Nancy Writebol,, received a dose with no marked improvement; but a second dose improved her condition. She will be returning to the United States tomorrow and will join Brantly at Emory University Hospital.
Sermo Expert Opinion: The Real Threat of Ebola
Even among physicians, many expressed concern over Ebola patients traveling to the US for treatment. We spoke with Jim Wilson, MD, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert with AscelBio and Sermo Infectious Disease Correspondent about how real the threat is.
“To say that Ebola will globalize is a gross overstatement of the threat,” said Wilson. “You’re going to get onesies and twosies of cases but as long as everyone is on their toes, it will quickly be brought under control.”
“That is why places like Sermo are so important; they can ensure we get the information out, and people are prepared. As long as we’re aware, we’re going to be just fine.”
“We have examples of what happens, and you can deal with it, you really can,” said Wilson. “In 1996, a doctor traveled back to South Africa and was unknowingly in the beginning stages of Ebola. His nurse was infected before authorities realized the patient had Ebola. The entire country was anxious about an outbreak, but it never happened. The two patients had over 350 contacts with other humans who had not used barrier nursing procedures, and no one else got sick,” said Wilson.
“We need to remember the history and
that we can control this.”
Are We Prepared? An Outbreak “Surge”
If there ever were a serious outbreak of infectious disease in the United States, public health officials would do what’s called a “surge.” Creating temporary shelters and containment areas where the sick can be treated with minimal threat to the greater public.
Wilson talked about the logistics: “If they can manage this in Africa with no resources, then we can too. You’re talking about 2x4s, tarps, staples, a lot of plastic, military cots. It can be done and done successfully. Americans have been watching too much Hollywood.”
Issues in West Africa
Wilson said the epidemic is still strong in West Africa and they are still struggling to control the disease. One of the issues is the traditional way they bury their dead. “If you see videos of a West African funeral, they touch the dead,” said Wilson. “They kiss the dead, they hold the dead, they’ll kiss them on the lips. If a corpse has contamination it can be easy to transfer, they also don’t believe in cremation and you can’t just go in and violate thousands of years of tradition.”
The public needs to be educated not to touch the corpse. Wilson said the best way to handle the dead are to spray the bodies down with bleach, zip them into a body bag and spray the body bag again before putting it into the grave.
Do you think the U.S. is prepared to do a surge if any infectious disease threatens? What do you think about the media coverage that has been provided about Ebola? Do you think the new treatment has far-reaching implications? There is extensive discussion about Ebola inside Sermo. If you’re an M.D. or D.O. please visit the community and join the conversation.