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.
- Doctors turn to experimental Ebola treatments,
ChemistryWorld, 20 August 2014.
- Ebola Virus VP24 Targets a Unique NLS Binding Site on Karyopherin Alpha 5 to Selectively Compete with Nuclear Import of Phosphorylated STAT1,
Wei Xu, Megan R. Edwards, Dominika M. Borek, Alicia R. Feagins, Anuradha Mittal, Joshua B. Alinger, Kayla N. Berry, Benjamin Yen, Jennifer Hamilton, Tom J. Brett, Rohit V. Pappu, Daisy W. Leung, Christopher F. Basler, Gaya K. Amarasinghe,
Cell Host Microbe 2014, 16(2), 87–200.
Also of interest:
Emergency Access to Biomedical Literature to Aid Ebola Outbreak Relief Efforts (Wiley Press release)