Good news is hard to come by these days, so let’s savor whatever we can get:
Two doctors in Liberia will be the first Africans to receive an experimental treatment for Ebola that has been previously only been used on two Americans and a Spaniard, Liberian officials announced on Monday. The decision comes on the heels of a World Health Organization panel’s ruling that it’s ethical to use the untested drug in an attempt to contain the deadly Ebola outbreak, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives in several West African nations.
There’s no cure and no vaccine for the Ebola virus, which is currently killing about 60 percent of the people who become infected with it. But an experimental Ebola drug called ZMapp, manufactured by a U.S. biotech company but not yet approved by the government, has shown promise in treating animals infected with the virus.
ZMapp was quickly given to the three Europeans who became infected with the disease while abroad — sparking concerns about the disparities in treatment emerging along geographic, economic, and racial lines. Now, the U.S. government is helping connect Liberian officials with the drug maker to ship doses into the country, but it’s still unclear how much of the limited supply Liberia will receive.
Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the company that makes ZMapp, says that this shipment — only enough to treat three people — has “exhausted” its supply of the drug, but presumably they can make more. Given such a limited supply it makes sense that this batch will go to medical workers, since they’re major vectors for the spread of the disease and since a health care system weakened by Ebola causes suffering for all its would-be patients. Assuming there are no setbacks, this better be the first of many shipments.