On Saturday Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, became the first person with the Ebola virus to ever be transported onto U.S. soil, and new details regarding his treatment have emerged. According to a statement issued by Samaritan's Purse, the charity organization that deployed Brantly to Liberia, he was given an experimental serum before leaving Africa.
Three frozen vials of a drug called ZMapp were flown to Liberia last week, but the dose was only enough for one person. Brantly initially refused the medication so it could be administered to missionary Nancy Writebol, who likewise contracted Ebola. Writebol is also affiliated with the North Carolina-based Christian relief groups Samaritan’s Purse and SIM.
Brantly opted for a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old patient who survived a bout with Ebola, but his condition continued to deteriorate. The doctor said he felt like he was dying at one point while gasping for air, and was given a dose of ZMapp.
Within hours, Brantly's breathing improved, and a rash he developed disappeared. He was able to take a shower on his own the following day, and was seen walking into Emory University Hospital when he arrived in Atlanta.
ZMapp was developed by the San Diego-based biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. Brantly was told the drug was never administered to a human before, but showed potential in simian trials. ZMapp is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to parts of the Ebola virus, causing antibodies against the disease to be generated. The antibodies were then taken from the blood of the mice to create the medicine, which works by blocking Ebola from entering new cells.
Here is an interesting documentary concerning the spread of Ebola in Liberia via ingesting bushmeat:
Samaritan's Purse said, "We praise God for the news that Kent's condition is improving. We can confirm that Kent was able to receive a dose of the experimental serum prior to leaving Liberia. Please continue to pray for Kent, the people of Liberia, and all those who are serving there in Jesus' name."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Tom Frieden commented, “It’s encouraging that he seems to be improving … and we’re hoping that he’ll continue to improve." Though Frieden added that since Ebola is “so deadly,” it is too early to predict if Brantly will survive.
The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria is the largest recorded in history, and the disease has a mortality rate of roughly 68 percent. So far, the outbreak has taken over 700 lives, and a vaccination is years away. Yet, the National Institutes of Health is set to begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine on human subjects in mid-September.
A representative from Emory said in a statement, “Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.”
Writebol was likewise given ZMapp treatment in Liberia, and is expected to be moved to Emory within the coming days.
Image via Wikimedia Commons