ZMapp is the newly introduced but internationally recognized medicine credited with bringing two U.S. Ebola patients back on the road to recovery. It’s unapproved, untested, but still many hail it as Africa’s best chance against the deadly outbreak. Unfortunately, there are only about 12 doses of the drug available, and two of these have been reportedly flown to Africa to treat two doctors.
Two doses of the unapproved ZMapp serum arrived in Liberia Wednesday after being flown transatlanticly on a commercial flight from the United States, Reuters reported. According to the UN health agency, the number of doses currently available are extremely low. The choice of who would get the medicine was a difficult ethical question, but authorities have decided the Liberian doctors, Zukunis Ireland and Abraham Borbor, would be the first two African recipients. Both were reported to have contracted the virus while attending to Ebola patients.
ZMapp is extremely experimental. According to the developers, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc, it has only ever been administered to thee humans, and of those, one, a Spanish missionary working in Liberia, has died. The two American missionaries, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have reportedly made significant improvements in health since ZMapp treatment, but both are still not considered fully recovered.
To Liberian native James Liburd, who sells stationary in the capital of Monrovia, the medicine’s unknown side effects are not as important as its potential healing abilities. "I welcome it. It is very good. Our nurses are dying. If you bring them the medication it will make them stronger to fight Ebola," Liburd told Reuters.
Others are not so welcoming of the experimental serum and feel that giving it to Africa is equivalent to using the patients as guinea pigs. "This is not the panacea to the problem. It is at the risk of the patient," said Liberia Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah. The skepticism is shared by Melvin Korkor, the Liberian doctor who became the country’s first Ebola survivor earlier this year. "Any drug that has not been approved by FDA should not be administered," he told Reuters, adding that if he had been offered the drug, he would have turned it down.
As officials continue to debate the ethics of administering the experimental drug, patients continue to die from the virus. The most recent figures from the World Health Organization place the current death toll at 1,069, but the “probable and suspected” number of cases is thought to be nearly 2,000.
West African countries without any Ebola cases have begun to close their borders in a desperate attempt to keep their citizens safe. Non-African nationals are also avoiding contact with infected countries and have been leaving the areas in hordes. The U.S. Peace Corps withdrew 340 volunteers in late July, and only yesterday Germany urged all German nationals to leave the infected nations, ITV reported.