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Untested drugs to be tried on Ebola patients

The untested drug Zmapp was requested by the Liberian government to help fight the Ebola virus.
By Ed Adamczyk   |   Aug. 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM   |   Comments

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UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Experimental drugs can be ethically used to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the World Health Organization announced.

The ruling was made after a meeting of medical specialists in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, with officials cautioning only a limited supply -- 12 doses -- of the relatively untested drug Zmapp was available. The announcement came after last week's WHO conference, at which the Ebola outbreak was declared a global health emergency, and after Liberia, one of the countries most affected by the spread of the Ebola virus, requested Zmapp from the U.S. government.

Zmapp is a mixture of antibodies that attack proteins of the virus.

The medication was believed to have been used on two Ebola patients in the United States and one patient in Spain who has since died. In clinical tests, the drug has only been tested on experimental monkeys. There has been no assessment of its safety in humans thus far.

"The alternative for not testing this (Zmapp) is death, a certain death," Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown told the BBC.

"This is not even the rock and the hard place for us. We think those who have been infected should be given the chance to have that tested on them if they give their consent to do so. We know there may be risks associated with it, but choosing a risk and choosing dying I am sure many would prefer to see that risk happen."

The Ebola virus had infected at least 1,779 people in West Africa since February, over 1,000 of whom have died.

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