The Ebola virus has infected thousands of individuals and killed hundreds of people across five countries in West Africa. With no immediate end in sight and efforts to contain the spread of the Ebola virus far from complete, the world is eagerly anticipating the success of a novel experimental drug known as ZMapp to cure the infected and to prevent the virus from spreading.
Developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., ZMapp has succeeded in curing eighteen monkeys infected with the Ebola virus. Although tests involving primates are encouraging, human trials require time and so far have shown inconclusive results. Of the seven humans who have received varying doses of ZMapp, five have survived while two have died. In addition, doctor’s aren’t certain if ZMapp was solely responsible for curing the patients infected.
ZMapp comprises three antibodies that target cells infected with the Ebola virus. This enables a person’s immune system to kill the cells with the virus inside them.
Given the urgent nature of this outbreak, scientists are running out of time to conduct the proper tests required to ensure ZMapp is safe for humans and fully effective against the Ebola virus. Other complications include availability and the time it takes to manufacture this drug. Currently, there are no batches left and the next batch ready for use will take several months. Another issue is determining the amount of dosage a human will need to stave off the virus while ensuring the patient’s safety.
In a recent statement, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said, “For animal data, it’s extremely impressive,” but for humans, “We do need to know what the proper dose is.”
According to the World Health Organization, 1,500 people have died from the outbreak and more than 3,000 people have been infected. The Ebola virus is easily spread between humans and animals and is acquired either through exposure to blood or bodily fluids (including sweat). Once infected, the fatality rate is 90%.