August 5, 2014 (San Diego)--An ebola outbreak has killed nearly 900 people in West Africa and stricken more than 1,600. Left untreated, about 90% of patients with the ebola virus have died – and until recently, there was no known treatment or cure.
Two American doctors who contracted the dreaded disease, also known as hemorrhagic fever, in Africa are now recovering back in the U.S. – after being treated with a new and experimental medication developed by a San Diego biotech company.
The drug, a cocktail of antibodies, works by recognizing cells infected with ebola and triggering the body’s own immune system to kill them off.
Mapp Pharmaceutical had reported promising results in clinical tests done on monkeys. Back in 2013, the company found that 43% of monkeys with ebola recovered after intravaneous treatments of the drug. Moreover, a research team led by James Pettitt of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases reported that the medication protected 100% of primates treated within one hour after being exposed to ebola, and protected two-thirds of the monkeys treated 48 hours-two days—after exposure.
That’s good news for the two American doctors who had been treated patients in West Africa. Both were flown on special planes to Atlanta, Georgia, where their conditions are improving.
Ebola was first found in the Congo though the current outbreak is impacting Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The disease causes a high fever and bleeding internally. It spreads through contact with body fluids from infected individuals, though some medical experts have warned that if the virus ever mutates to become airborn, it could become a global pandemic.
So early intervention and treatment—such as that provided by MB-003, the drug created by Mapp Pharmaceutical right here in San Diego, could be a key to preventing a global ebola outbreak.