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US send experimental Ebola treatment to Liberia

A US company that makes an experimental drug for treating the Ebola virus said it has sent all its available supplies to west Africa.
US president Barack Obama and the Food and Drug Administration have approved a request from Liberia’s government to send sample doses of ZMapp to treat Liberian doctors infected with Ebola, the Liberian presidency said in a statement.
The statement, posted on the Liberian presidency’s official website, said the experimental drugs would be delivered to the west African country this week by a representative of the US government, following a direct appeal to President Obama by Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization  (WHO), has also authorized the dispatch of additional doses of the experimental drug to Liberia to support the treatment of affected doctors, the statement said.
Doses will be delivered by a WHO expert this week.
Some 961 people have died from the haemorrhagic fever in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria since March in the largest Ebola outbreak in history.
The biomedical collaboration between US and Canadian researchers involves a drug that is manufactured in tobacco leaves and is hard to produce on a large scale.
“In responding to the request received this weekend from a west African nation, the available supply of ZMapp is exhausted,” said a statement on the Mapp Bio website.
“Any decision to use ZMapp must be made by the patients’ medical team,” it said, adding that the drug was “provided at no cost in all cases”.
The two American missionary workers who fell ill with Ebola while working in Monrovia last month were given doses of the drug.
Both have been transported to an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where they are receiving continuous care.
A Spanish priest who was sick with Ebola has also been given a dose.
The ethics of distributing experimental medications to some people but not others was the focus of a special meeting of the World Health Organization on Monday.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly stressed that the drug’s effects are unknown, since it has not been through a process of rigourous clinical trials.
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola on the world market.
Credit: Reuters

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