Just to make things crystal clear: There are no drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Ebola virus
disease. That means everything out there that is being tried (usually out of desperation) has yet to be proven safe or effective. The drugs mentioned in this article show promise for helping treat people infected with Ebola
, but we just don't know if they really work.
Keep reading for a bit of basic information about three of the drugs that may play a role in the treatment of Ebola.
Zmapp™ is an experimental medication being developed from Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc. It is a combination of three different monoclonal antibodies. Interestingly, it is produced in tobacco plants using special techniques. Currently, the makers of Zmapp state that they don't yet know exactly how it works against Ebola. However, based on how monoclonal antibodies work, it's likely that Zmapp might work by binding to the virus, inactivating it (or slowing it down), and marking it for destruction by the immune system.
Studies in monkeys are extremely promising, with one study demonstrating that the drug reversed Ebola (even in very severe cases) 100 percent of the time. While it's true that some of the people given Zmapp during the current outbreak survived, not all did (and remember, some people survive even without treatment). It's too early to say if Zmapp is truly effective in humans or not.
Monoclonal antibody medications like Zmapp are too delicate to be taken by mouth (the digestive system
would destroy the antibodies). As a result, they are usually given intravenously (by IV). Zmapp must be shipped and stored frozen and must be thawed before use. This could make its use on a large scale problematic.
The other huge problem is that Zmapp supplies are very, very limited. The product was identified as a possible drug candidate only recently (in January 2014), and the drug wasn't even in human studies yet. The manufacturer and the U.S. government are partnering in an attempt to produce more doses as quickly as possible.