Fighting Ebola Without Knowing How

Fighting Ebola Without Knowing How

Author: Veronika Belusa

Between February 2014 and 16 August 2014, a total of 2240 cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) and 1229 deaths were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. EVD – formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever – is a severe illness in humans. Gaya Amarasinghe, Washington University School of Medicine, USA, and colleagues have found that the Ebola protein VP24 disrupts the body’s natural immune response which leads in up to 90 % to death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency of international concern. As licensed treatments or vaccines for Ebola are missing, the WHO has advised the use of the vaccine ZMapp.
ZMapp, licensed for commercialization to BioProtection Systems Corporation (BPSC), Ames, IA, USA, has proven effective in animals but has never been tested in humans. It was developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, San Diego, USA, only in January after efficacy studies in monkeys. It contains three monoclonal antibodies produced by tobacco plants that should bind to and inactivate the Ebola virus. Moreover, the antibodies should highlight infected cells so that the immune system can destroy them.

Using ZMapp is discussed controversially with arguments such as the outbreak provides a perfect arena to test the new drug, risks are unknown, supply isn’t large enough to treat everybody.

Also of interest:

Emergency Access to Biomedical Literature to Aid Ebola Outbreak Relief Efforts (Wiley Press release)


  1. Jack Horvath

    Any port in a storm. People are dying anyhow, it would be immoral not to give them a defense against the deadly virus even though it has not been tested in humans yet. If there are unexpected bad side effects, the people would have been killed by the Ebola virus without it, so likely will be grateful anyhow. We like to focus on the worst case scenario, but what is worse then death by Ebola. People should be given a choice with a full explanation of the background of the vaccine. Then it should be their choice whether to take the treatment of not.


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