NEW: Scientists are using an experimental drug, Brincidofovir, on two Ebola patients
ZMapp showed promise in patients, but there are no doses left
Several vaccines are in trials
Thai doctors believe they've found a new antibody, but it has not been tested
Scientists racing to develop something that will stop the largest Ebola epidemic in history are trying a variety of experimental drugs on patients.
Without a cure, the disease has killed at least 3,431 people and infected 7,470 at last count.
The first person known to have been diagnosed with the disease on U.S. soil, Thomas Duncan, is receiving a drug called Brincidofovir, according to his nephew Joe Weeks. So is the second Ebola patient to be treated in The Nebraska Medical Center’s Biocontainment Unit, freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo.
“After looking at the data on this drug, collaborating with the CDC and FDA and speaking with the patient and his family, we decided this was currently our best option for treatment,” Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit, said in a statement Tuesday. “Every patient is somewhat different, and we believe Brincidofovir is the best choice.”
The biopharmaceutical company Chimerix got approval from the FDA for emergency use of Brincidofovir on Duncan on Friday. Duncan is currently in critical condition in Dallas.
The experimental antiviral drug was initially being developed to treat life-threatening viruses like smallpox. But antiviral drugs can be used to treat a wide variety of diseases.
This is the same drug that was originally denied to Josh Hardy, a 7-year-old who was treated for cancer and then developed an adenovirus that nearly killed him. In March, his parents launched a social media campaign to get the medicine, and it drew national attention. Josh then received the drug and recovered.
Here’s what else is in the pipeline to fight Ebola.
Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. is in the early stages of developing its drug, ZMapp. It was given to the Americans taken from Africa to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment in August. A total of seven patients got the drug, and it seems to have had success.
In July, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency gave Mapp additional funding because of the “promising results.”
In animal studies, the therapy seemed to help. Four monkeys infected with Ebola survived after getting ZMapp within 24 hours after infection. Two others survived after getting the treatment 48 hours after infection.
In the Emory patients’ cases, Dr. Kent Brantly didn’t get the drug until he’d been sick for nine days.
After just an hour of receiving the medication, Brantly’s condition improved dramatically. His labored breathing got better, and a rash faded away. One of his doctors described the transformation as “miraculous.”
Nancy Writebol also received the medication, but her response was not as immediate. After a second dose of the medicine, her doctors said, there was significant improvement.
Since the drug is so new, there are no doses of it left.
The Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Mapp to make more for early-stage clinical safety studies.
Creating the drug is time-consuming and expensive. Scientists are looking for alternative ways to create it using the tobacco plant. In August, Kentucky-based BioProcessing started working with Mapp to develop ZMapp using its plants.