Ebola drug ZMapp supply exhausted, will take months to replenish

World Today

The manufacturer of the one of the leading experimental drugs in the fight against Ebola, called ZMapp, tells CCTV America it will be a “handful of months” before it is available again.

It takes that long to produce more. It’s just the latest setback in the fight against Ebola. The manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., said in a statement posted Monday afternoon on its website that the supply of the drug is now exhausted.

It’s believed the outbreak began in December 2013 with a two-year old patient in a village in Guinea. That village is on the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia. The virus quickly spread to those countries.

A report published in The New England Journal of Medicine says it’s unknown how the toddler got the virus which spread throughout her family. Since that initial case eight months ago, more than 1800 have become sick with Ebola.

And in virtually all of the cases, doctors haven’t been able to do much. Experimental drugs are promising, but they’re not being widely used.

Some questions and answers about the Ebola drug:

Q: What is this drug?

A: Called ZMapp, it is a cocktail of specially engineered antibodies designed to target and inactivate the Ebola virus.

Q: What do we know about whether it works?

A: Very little. Various antibodies have been tested in small numbers of monkeys, but not people. In one study, 43 percent of treated monkeys survived when the drug was given after the animals showed symptoms.

Mapp Biopharmaceutical now is developing a combination of three antibodies that seemed most promising in those animal studies.

Q: Why isn’t ZMapp being tested more widely to find out if it works in people?

A: There’s not enough available. The antibodies are grown inside tobacco plants, and then extracted and purified, a slow process. U.S. officials have estimated that only a modest amount could be produced in two or three months, unless some way to speed production is found.

Report compiled with information from The Associated Press.