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Biotech Medicine

Anti-Ebola Drug ZMapp Makes Clean Sweep: 18 of 18 Monkeys Survive Infection 91

Posted by timothy
from the not-that-kind-of-monkey-trial dept.
Scientific American reports, based on a study published today in Nature, that ZMapp, the drug that has been used to treat seven patients during the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, can completely protect monkeys against the virus, research has found. ... The drug — a cocktail of three purified immune proteins, or monoclonal antibodies, that target the Ebola virus — has been given to seven people: two US and three African health-care workers, a British nurse and a Spanish priest. The priest and a Liberian health-care worker who got the drug have since died. There is no way to tell whether ZMapp has been effective in the patients who survived, because they received the drug at different times during the course of their disease and received various levels of medical care. NPR also has an interview with study lead Gary Kobinger, who says that (very cautious) human trials are in the works, and emphasizes the difficulites of producing the drug in quantity.
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Anti-Ebola Drug ZMapp Makes Clean Sweep: 18 of 18 Monkeys Survive Infection

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  • Project 18 monkeys is a go.
    I for one welcome our simian overlords.

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      It was supposed to be 12 monkeys. Idiots!

  • by eric31415927 (861917) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:58PM (#47788827)

    When the human testing starts, should it be old people first? afftected-continent people first? family-receives-high-payment people first?

    I think they should be volunteers at the very least.

    • Re:Human Subjects (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Galactic Dominator (944134) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:10PM (#47788867)

      I think it should be infected people.

      • So apparently do the people making the decision, so Im glad that all of the important people here are agreed.

    • Re:Human Subjects (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:14PM (#47788877)

      By law in the U.S. (and most other countries), as well as health care and research codes of ethics, study participants must voluntarily provide informed consent to receive experimental treatments. It's extremely difficult to prove the voluntary part for at-risk populations including people who are elderly, poor, or undereducated. Studies of these populations require additional oversight and safeguards.

      Source: I'm qualified to perform research with participants who have linguistic or cognitive impairments and did so during my M.S. program and in my first job after graduation.

    • When the human testing starts, should it be old people first? afftected-continent people first? family-receives-high-payment people first?

      I think they should be volunteers at the very least.

      If you RTFA you'll notice that human testing has already started.

    • Re:Human Subjects (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fluffy99 (870997) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:28PM (#47788933)

      I think they should be volunteers at the very least.

      Given the 90% mortality rate of ebola, I suspect nearly anyone infected will want to volunteer. The problem is that the drug can't be mass produced yet. 10s of doses takes months to produce using the current method, which is genetically modified tobacco plants (bit of irony there). A massive influx of resource is needed to ramp up production.

      • i read the fatality rate in this epidemic has been more around 40%.
        • Re:Human Subjects (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday August 29, 2014 @11:16PM (#47789355)

          i read the fatality rate in this epidemic has been more around 40%.

          The lowered lethality is actually a bad thing. It means people aren't getting as sick, are staying ambulatory longer, and are spreading the disease to more additional people. With a lethality rate of 90% a disease will likely burn out fast. At 40%, it has more time to spread, and can kill far more people in total. Despite the lower lethality, this outbreak has killed more than any other [wikipedia.org]. If the virus continues to adapt to human hosts, and the lethality falls to 10 or 20%, we are in big trouble.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So the mortality rate is not 90% - the media is, as usual, misquoting the figure. They actually quote was something more like "a mortality rate of up to 90%" because one outbreak has had a mortality rate this high. This particular outbreak, as of yesterday, only had a mortality rate of 51%. Other outbreaks have different rates depending on local conditions, such as how good the care the patients receive is. I think the cumulative for all outbreaks since the 70's is about 65% IIRC.

        • So the mortality rate is not 90% - the media is, as usual, misquoting the figure. They actually quote was something more like "a mortality rate of up to 90%" because one outbreak has had a mortality rate this high. This particular outbreak, as of yesterday, only had a mortality rate of 51%. Other outbreaks have different rates depending on local conditions, such as how good the care the patients receive is. I think the cumulative for all outbreaks since the 70's is about 65% IIRC.

          And that number is likely to be higher than reality since people who aren't very sick will be unwilling to present for care and, given the poor state of public health infrastructure in that neck of the woods, population surveillance is very hard.

          They will have a better idea in the upcoming months when they can screen for Ebola antibodies in the general population.

    • When the human testing starts, should it be old people first? afftected-continent people first? family-receives-high-payment people first?

      Real clinical trials do not work like this. If you want to do a real trial, you first have to establish a team and treatment center that can administer your therapy and collect the data you need. You then establish EXCLUSION criteria, i.e., people who will not be included in the trial (usually old people, who have an annoying tendency to die, and children, because sick kids scare the shit out of most doctors). *Everybody* else who comes to the center, who has the disease, gets offered enrollment in the t

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      When the human testing starts, should it be old people first? afftected-continent people first? family-receives-high-payment people first?

      Trolls first.

      I think they should be volunteers at the very least.

      Your application as a volunteer has been accepted. Your Ebola infection should shortly be delivered and the drugs (or placebo ; not your choice which you get) will be delivered in 10 days time, by when you should have started to develop symptoms. Please take it to a nearby clinic and pay someone to inject y

  • Main Problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by no-body (127863) on Friday August 29, 2014 @08:58PM (#47788829)

    with Ebola control is health care infra-structure in affected countries. A far cry from what would be necessary to contain further spread. There was one report on a radio station that there are like 10 doctors in a whole country (Africa, forgot the name).

    Even if you have the best drug available defeating the virus in a day, it won't help at all under those circumstances - spread by body fluids from infected individuals.

    The outcome can only be guessed...

    • There was one report on a radio station that there are like 10 doctors in a whole country

      That would NPR's report as well which stated 50 doctors total in Liberia after some of left during the beginning of the infection.

      http://wvpe.org/post/who-warns... [wvpe.org]

      Of course considering the mess Liberia has been in for 20+ years this outbreak is relatively minor and only receiving attention due to sensationalism.

      • Re:Main Problem (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fluffy99 (870997) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:32PM (#47788957)

        Of course considering the mess Liberia has been in for 20+ years this outbreak is relatively minor and only receiving attention due to sensationalism.

        No, it's receiving a lot of attention because the outbreak is not contained to a small remote village as with previous outbreaks. It's not contained at this point (partly due to the lack of govt in these areas), and there is a significant population in danger. The fairly long incubation period of up to a few weeks means this could easily be carried back to major populated areas and spread like wildfire.

    • Indeed. I read a report not long ago that said doctors are dying in Africa because they don't have enough gloves.
    • it's not just the extent of medical infrastructure, but also its robustness. one reason it has spread so rapidly in nigeria is that all the doctors are on strike. the doctor's union has been striking for 6 months to get higher wages (seriously, yes). this is the problem with centralized health care! (troll bait)
      • Re:Main Problem (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:52AM (#47790087)
        Nigeria has a centralised health care system? SInce when? It did not have one in February 2014 when I was there.

        In any case, so far, the only people infected in Nigeria are the health care professionals that treated a Liberian who arrived infected, and the families of those health care workers.

        Disclaimer: two of the deceased (a doctor and a nurse) were known to a colleague of my partner.

        • i don't know what centralized health care really means but i do know that doctors in nigeria have a union and that they are on strike and that there are about a dozen cases in nigeria.
      • by ruir (2709173)
        It depends on what you call centralised system or medical infra-structure. I remember fully well that when I was living in an African country a few years ago, you had like 50 doctors for the whole country, most of which in the capital, and maybe 5000 witch doctors.
  • Finally the monkeys are safe. Praise be.
  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:23PM (#47788919)
    Good news for the ones that can afford the treatment, either personally or through their government. Death for the others.
  • by IonOtter (629215) on Friday August 29, 2014 @09:43PM (#47788995) Homepage

    Looks like The Onion got this one wrong.

    Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away [theonion.com]

    I suppose it's a commentary on the state of the world that The Onion is so often inadvertently right with their headlines.

  • Who/Where can we donate to help get basic supplies to the doctors in Africa; without 98% of it disappearing into 'overhead'?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Dear Sir Kaenneth,

      Please permit me to make your acquaintance in so informal a manner. This is necessitated by my urgent need to reach a dependable and trust worthy foreign partner to transfer international donations to Africa. My name is Dr. William Monroe, colleague of esteemed Ebola expert Dr. John Shumejda of Nigeria.

      Please sir, as a humanitarian, if you can wire $189,000,000.00 USD to my Bank of Bahamas account, I can assure you that 98% of that contribution will not disappear into the 'overhead' of whi

    • Re:Donations... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mhotchin (791085) <slashdot@@@hotchin...net> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @12:55AM (#47789585)

      Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF)
      http://www.doctorswithoutborde... [doctorswit...orders.org]

      • Re:Donations... (Score:4, Informative)

        by OneAhead (1495535) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @02:29PM (#47792029)

        Yeah, they're the first NGO that started fighting this outbreak, and have the biggest presence in the area. Which is not a surprise given that they're one of very few (possibly even the only one) equipped to deal with biosafety level 4 diseases in the wild. With only a little bit of hyperbole, one could say they moved in where a lot of other NGOs moved out (and rightly so).

        That said, all their qualified personnel and relevant equipment is already invested into this outbreak, so a significant part of any money you donate to them right now will go to their other programs - mainly Syria at the moment. However, don't let that stop you. Apart from Syria obviously needing some attention too, MSF is pretty efficient in the way thy use their money and their approach is uncompromisingly impartial and science-driven, to the point of being shunned by deep religious conservatives (*gasp*, promoting the use of condoms) and people with political agendas (*gasp*, daring to criticize the dire humanitarian circumstances in Palestine). Which explains why they're relatively unpopular in the USA compared to the rest of the western world.

  • If they have practice gengengeering on some thing, do it on something that can be safely erased if we fuck it all up.

    They got all kinds of varieties of tobacco plants they can experiment on, we won't miss one of them

    We can erase the entire tobacco supply and never cry one tear if there is a monstrous fuck-up.

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      That depends on whether the monstrous fuck-up is just extinction of one plant variety or Triffidized tobacco.

    • I don't care if your bleeding from the eyeballs, leave my cigarettes alone!
  • That 50% better than 12 out of Twelve Monkeys!
  • Risk Management (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday August 29, 2014 @10:26PM (#47789177) Homepage Journal

    Look, I'm all for getting as much Zmapp to patients as is possible. I think a lot of people are agreement on this.

    But we also need to do something about the effed up process of the approval of drugs and vaccines for these deadly diseases.

    I'm thinking specifically about the malaria vaccine that has been known to be effective since '96/'97, but which has been held up for extended testing trials by (IIRC) the British drug regulators, who again put a hold on it this spring because it might not be entirely effective in newborn infants.

    Meanwhile two million children are dying every year from malaria. This is a really, really, really, screwed up situation, and we have an ethical obligation to do what we can to put an end to these processes.

    Even if the latest delay is "only" three months, that's a half million kids or so. It's unconscionable how poor the risk management analysis is - the perfect can be the very, very deadly enemy of the good. And so can drug-agency bureaucrats.

    • Re:Risk Management (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nemyst (1383049) on Friday August 29, 2014 @11:26PM (#47789407) Homepage
      That's easy to say when the sample of drugs you have is those that have passed approval. If the requirements are relaxed, it's very hard to say what would happen without having access to information only the FDA has.

      Perhaps nothing would happen. That'd be great, but it's also a gamble. It's possible that the relaxed requirements mean a side-effect slips through unnoticed, causing as great or greater harm later in the future. It's unlikely, but it's possible, and it only takes one for everyone to panic. Probably the best example we have of what could happen is Thalidomide.
    • by Kijori (897770)

      Do you have a source for that malaria fact? I just wonder whether there's maybe more to it than just its effectiveness in newborns.

  • From TFA:

    All animals that received the drug lived, no matter when their treatment started; three monkeys that were not treated died.

    We're not told the size of the control group, but if it were 18 monkeys to match the treated group, you had a very hardy set of monkeys or a less aggressive strain of the virus.

  • Now don't you U.S. military haters go out there and use this drug. After all it was partially funded with U.S. tax dollars via the Army.

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