Serum to Stop Ebola?

An experimental monoclonal antibody therapy, tested only in animals, is given to two Americans infected with Ebola virus.

By | August 6, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, PLOS BIOLOGYAs an outbreak of Ebola virus spreads in West Africa, doctors, regulatory authorities, and biotech firms are scrambling to find a cure for an as-yet incurable disease. An experimental monoclonal antibody-based therapy, administered to two American healthcare workers who contracted Ebola in Liberia, illustrates the risks physicians and patients are willing to take to stop the often fatal infection.

Forbes reported that the product, called ZMapp, is a “three-antibody cocktail” that “provides an artificial immune response against sugar-tagged proteins on the outside of the Ebolavirus.” So far it has not been tested in Phase I clinical trials, making the US patients guinea pigs for the treatment.

Ars Technica tracked down publications related to the therapy, which was initially developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical. According to Ars, “in the researchers’ most recent published work, from about a year ago, they used it on macaques that were already developing fevers as a result of the infection. Nearly half of the animals survived, while the infection was completely fatal in the control group.”

When the two Americans fell ill in Liberia, their humanitarian groups appealed to US health agencies to ask for any sort of treatment—tested or not. “Our staff in Liberia knew about the research and flagged it for the religious groups,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post. “The physicians in charge of the patients’ care made a risk-benefit decision. The risk was less than the potential benefit.”

Mapp Biopharmaceutical told the Washington Post that very little material is available, but that it is working to increase production quickly. In the meantime, development of an Ebola vaccine has been fast-tracked by US health agencies, while testing for a drug developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is on hold for now.


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Avatar of: wctopp


Posts: 58

August 6, 2014

We've got a bunch of Ebola survivors.  Why won't immune serum help?  Are there not enough survivors willing to donate?  Has anyone even tried this?

Avatar of: fredg


Posts: 3

August 6, 2014

I think the headline is a bit misleading.

The therapy both US patients received is a combination of 3 monoclonal antibodies, purified from genetically engineered tobacco programmed to produce the antibodies.  So they didnt receive "serum", which is defined as the protein-rich supernatent that separates  when blood coagulates (although 1 of the 2 apparently did receive a transfusion of whole blood, which would include polyclonal antibodies, from an Ebola survivor)


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