The number of reported cases from the Ebola virus disease outbreak has risen to 1,603, with 887 deaths, according to an Aug. 4 update by the World Health Organization. This news comes the same day Nancy Writebol, 59, the second American medical missionary stricken with Ebola virus in Liberia, arrived in Atlanta, where she was transported to Emory University Hospital.
Last week, both Writebol and Kent Brantley, 33, the American doctor who also contracted Ebola in Liberia and is receiving treatment at Emory, were given the experimental drug known as ZMapp while still in Liberia. The drug had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys, according to a CNN article.
ZMapp is composed of three humanized monoclonal antibodies manufactured in plants, specifically Nicotiana, according to a fact sheet issued by the drug’s developer Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. In testing, mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus. Then the antibodies generated within the mices blood were harvested to create the medicine, according to the CNN article. The medicine works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.
ZMapp, which had not been approved for human use and has not undergone the clinical trial process, may have been provided under the U.S. FDAs compassionate use regulation, which allows access to investigational drugs outside clinical trials, according to media reports.
Emory has a specially built isolation unit, set up in collaboration with the CDC, that is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation, according to an Emory University Hospital statement. It is one of only four such facilities in the country.
On Aug. 4, officials at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York admitted a man who had recently been to West Africa and was showing symptoms consistent with Ebola. However, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene later issued a statement saying it has concluded this patient is unlikely to have Ebola. Specimens are being tested for common causes of illness and to definitively exclude Ebola.