As far as we know it, there is no known cure for the deadly West African Ebola virus. But one American doctor appears to be cured thanks to an experimental drug created by Emory University researchers.
Kent Brantly contracted the virus while treating infected patients in Liberia late July.
“Today is a miraculous day,” Kent Brantly told reporters. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”
Brantly was given ZMapp, a drug developed by U.S.-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical and used on just a handful of patients across the world suffering from the West African outbreak.
The “secret serum” is what’s known as a “monoclonal antibody.” As James Hamblin of The Atlantic explains, these substances are created by infecting an animal with the disease in question. Then, scientists harvest antibodies, created by the animals’ immune systems, to make the drug. With ZMapp, the antibodies were harvested from Ebola-infected mice.
Doctors aren’t totally sure how the drug affected Brantly and another Ebola patient, Nancy Writebol, who was released from Emory on Thursday.
“They are the very first individuals to have received this agent … and frankly we do not know whether it helped them, made no difference, or theoretically, delayed their recovery,” Bruce Ribner, medical director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit, told Business Insider.
Three African doctors, also treated with ZMapp in Liberia, have also shown striking signs of improvement.
The World Health Organization said that the power of the disease had been underestimated in Africa and does not anticipate the spread of Ebola slowing down in the region.
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