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Medicine Biotech

"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola 390

mrspoonsi (2955715) writes with news that the two Americans infected with Ebola in Liberia and transported to Atlanta for treatment were given an experimental drug, and their conditions appear to be improving. From the article: While some people do fight off the disease on their own, in the case of the two Americans, an experimental serum may have saved their lives. As Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol waited in a Liberian hospital, someone from the National Institutes of Health reached out to Samaritan's Purse, one of the two North Carolina-based Christian relief groups the two were working with, and offered to have vials of an experimental drug called ZMapp sent to Liberia, according to CNN's unnamed source. Although the Food and Drug Administration does allow experimental drugs to occasionally be distributed in life-threatening circumstances without approval under the expanded access or "compassionate use" conditions. It's not yet clear whether that approval was granted in this case or not. ... Brantly, who had been sick for nine days already ... [received] the first dose ... within an hour, he was able to breathe better and a rash on his body started to fade. The next day he was able to shower without help before boarding the air ambulance that flew him to Atlanta.
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"Secret Serum" Used To Treat Americans With Ebola

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:04PM (#47603333)

    Their lives were forever changed. One developed incredible muscles, which he used to fight crime. The other's brain was equally enhanced, but her turned to a life of crime.

    • by recoiledsnake ( 879048 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:28PM (#47603475)

      Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away

      http://www.theonion.com/articl... [theonion.com]

      • Oh god. I'm laughing so hard I'm crying. Or am I crying so hard I'm laughing?

      • Apparently there are a number of vaccines being developed. None of them have reached the human trials phase, but several of them have been given to people under in emergency circumstances. The problem is that it requires an official request from the person's government as well as informed consent from the patient. According to the researcher it's hard to get either of these in the area of the current outbreak.

  • by mrspoonsi ( 2955715 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:13PM (#47603359)
    Given that Ebola is currently confined to Africa, and that a relatively small number of people have caught it (less than 4000)...and these outbreaks seem to only come along once every 20 years, where was the incentive for the drug company to create this drug? Was it good timing that it has something ready to go just now. Will each dose be prohibitively expensive to administer in Africa, or it remains to be seen if WHO will foot the bill to the tune of 10's of millions $$.
    • by Chuckstar ( 799005 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:18PM (#47603399)

      There are government grants available for such research. Not all research is done by people looking for billion dollar paydays. Some people just want enough funding to get the research done and draw a salary.

      • by silfen ( 3720385 )

        The researchers' salaries isn't where the money is going primarily; it's going into infrastructure, animal testing, support, testing, insurance, etc.

    • The CDC has had access to ebola strains for a goodly amount of time.

      If you're in the business of possessing a cure during an outbreak, rudimentary requirements like FDA approval are moot.

      The 64,000 dollar question is can they gear up manufacturing facilities to make enough for all of us, or just enough for the privileged.... and yes, at that point, any recipient of the vaccine is privileged.

      • Of course, ideally "all of us" will never need it, because any outbreaks are carpet-bombed with whatever this stuff is, before it becomes a pandemic. (Then again, in prevention-mode, the market is a few thousand poverty-stricken people, whereas in disaster recovery mode it includes a few billion people with money... I'm not alleging conspiracy, more like market failure. Maybe health insurers should pay for this?)
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        Well, it needs to be tested, we don't know how hard it is to make, we don't know if it is successful, but it seems to be, how long can it be stored? IS the rick of outbreak worth the cost of maintaining millions of ready to go treatments?
        Ebola can e contained. If/when it mutates to be airborne that's going to be an issue. Of course, since it hasn't, we don't know if the vaccines would work at all.

        • Ebola Reston (VA) is presumed to have evolved to airborne transmission, but it was only deadly for the simians.

          The ease with which it seems to capture the attention of the masses with any threat of worldwide pandemic leads me to believe the folks that really have a lot to live for are making sure there's an option after infection.

          If you have more money than your grandchildren can spend, you purchase insurance. Lots and lots of it.

          • by geekoid ( 135745 )

            You are correct, I should have specified for humans. In my defense, that was the context.

      • rudimentary requirements like FDA approval are moot.

        FDA approval was not needed, because the serum was administered in Liberia, where the FDA has no jurisdiction.

    • by xevioso ( 598654 )

      What is the incentive for the doctors in Africa treating Ebola? Are they doing it for money? Or perhaps they are doing it out of a sense of goodwill towards their fellow human beings (that and the fact that many Christians believe God commands them to do these sorts of things).

      Perhaps an "incentive" for Pharmaceutical companies who are making money hand over fist with other drugs would be to make a drug that would cure or vaccinate against a horrible disease because, i don't know...it's the right thing to

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        It's all the phat loots Africa has. We all know those doctors are driving around in Ferrari and drinking champagne.

      • by s.petry ( 762400 )

        Perhaps an "incentive" for Pharmaceutical companies who are making money hand over fist with other drugs would be to make a drug that would cure or vaccinate against a horrible disease because, i don't know...it's the right thing to do?

        Ha ha, that is hilarious! Seriously, the reason they have massive profits is because they don't care about society as much as themselves. Why on earth would they suddenly become altruistic, when they are not altruistic about any other opportunity to "SELL" medicine to make lots of profits? Think really really hard about that for a minute and you will glean why your comment is so funny.

        The doctors treating patients has nothing to do with big pharmaceutical companies that view a plague as an opportunity to

    • Government funding, apparently from the NIH and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is charged with coming up with defenses to WMDs likely to be used by terrorists.

    • The USA almost always has plans for crazy just in case situations. Including developing drugs no one may need for years

      • That's what the Government should be for, doing things that are necessary but not profitable. What happens when government is privatized for efficiency?

        • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:19PM (#47603717) Homepage Journal

          That question has been answered many times.
          The middle class fades away, Large projects stop and the society collapse.
          People act like the government just appeared and hasn't been developed over time.

          Also we know that the government is more efficient then the ;private industry most of the time. That's the private sectors little secret.

          You can confirm that be simply looking at the federal project and see how many of them where completed on time and within budget. well of 80.
          The private sector is lucky to get 30% project dun, and less then 20% within budget.

          The Public sector/Private sector 80/20 has been written about many times.

    • A large part of the cost of developing a drug is getting it approved as safe for human use. For instance you can buy a vaccine for
      lyme disease for both your dog and your horse but there is no such legal vaccine for humans. The beginning stages of testing are
      relatively cheap and you can afford to have several of them in the works if for no other reason than to pad your patent portfolio.
      Many of the very early beginning stages also tend to cost nothing (i.e. A researcher happened to notice that drug X had th

    • by ewibble ( 1655195 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:32PM (#47603505)

      My particular unsupported conspiracy theory is that they have weaponized Ebola, and as a result they have had a cure for a while, just now they are using it.

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Yes the race was on in the for all aspects of aerosol dissemination over a wide variety of options.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
        Considering how hard the US and Soviet Union looked at all kinds of weapons systems, serum, collected samples.
        So something was collected, stored, offered this time to get some good news out.
      • It doesn't take a boy with a 1600 SAT score to see that weaponizing a virus capable of mutation to something you cannot cure in the lifespan of a fruit fly is stupid crazy.

        Granted, it's not mutually assured destruction.

        It's only plausibly mutually assured destruction. That should be quite enough.

    • http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/r... [cdc.gov]

      Once every 20 years my ass. Average numbers don't convey a lot of information.

      Averages about 1 outbreak per year if you want to define "outbreak" as "outbreak", unless you want to define it some other way. The current lab-confirmed numbers for this one are 953, with a death rate about 60%. 953 out of your "less than 4000 so far" number seems to be a hefty chunk of corpses.

      People study this in federal labs, with little chance of financial gain, in order to prevent it from

      • 956 on the global scale of some 7 billion or whatever we are at now on the other hand hardly is an outbreak. Thats prob less than die daily in car crashes around the world
      • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:44PM (#47603855)

        The drug is NOT ready. That's the whole point of this. They were given experimental "serum" which had not even reached Human trials (years away from them in fact, they had just recently reached simian trials after the mouse models which is essentially the very first step towards human trials). This stuff could have outright killed them. These two people subjected themselves to essentially untested experimentation in the hope of a miracle. They got lucky.

        Had they tested this stuff on a bunch of Africans and they died can you imagine the bad press it would have generated? I can see the headlines now. "America tests drugs on poor Africans in unethical medical experimentation".

    • Ebola is the main bio weapon research topic of the USA since roughly 1956. As similarily was Antrax for the British.

      It is not 'that' surprising that they in fact have a cure.
      Surprising is, that it get published so nonchalant, considering that anti bio weapons treaties are up since 30 years or longer.

      The real surprise, and hence the dubiousity of this news: a cure that is effective in a day or even in hours ... very uncommon.

    • by MikeMo ( 521697 )
      It's not just ROI. Other viruses cause way more death - like HIV - and should receive the bulk of our research money and attention because of that simple fact. Compare the death rate from HIV in Africa to that of Ebola and you can see it just makes sense to put resources on HIV.
    • Given that Ebola is currently confined to Africa, and that a relatively small number of people have caught it (less than 4000)...and these outbreaks seem to only come along once every 20 years, where was the incentive for the drug company to create this drug? Was it good timing that it has something ready to go just now.

      Will each dose be prohibitively expensive to administer in Africa, or it remains to be seen if WHO will foot the bill to the tune of 10's of millions $$.

      Not once in 20. Every two years... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Ebola_outbreaks
      Yes the number of inflicted individuals is too small \ to trigger major financial investment.
      Yes the inflicted individuals are mostly too poor to trigger major financial investment!
      Yes global risk is so large most research is department of defense funded.

      This is so serious and so bad a global risk I dislike thinking about it except that
      the world needs to pay attention. Today the context for disease is big $$ pharma
      and big $$

  • media.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    secret serum? what is this, scooby doo?

  • hmmmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BigDukeSix ( 832501 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:16PM (#47603385)
    It seems possible that a monoclonal antibody might have a dramatic effect on virus replication. Since Ebola makes one ill by direct cell destruction it might even make one feel better quickly. But the rash comes from bleeding under the skin (it's the same as any big bruise you might have had). It makes no sense that it should fade immediately from the administration of a monoclonal against the virus. I hope this drug is successful in a trial, but at least that part of the article is suspicious.
    • Re:hmmmmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:15PM (#47603695)

      Rashes are not bruises; most rashes are just dilated capillaries, often due to immune system activation. Of course, eventually, Ebola does cause bleeding from capillaries, but it may not have had progressed to that point. It's possible that a serum like this acts fairly quickly on a rash.

      • Re:hmmmmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by BigDukeSix ( 832501 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @10:54PM (#47604461)

        Okay, I'll feed the AC troll.

        I'm not talking about "most rashes"; real physicians have words to describe different kinds of rashes. The word that describes the rash of Ebola is "purpura." The distinguishing feature of this kind of rash is that when you push on it, it doesn't stop looking like a bruise. That is because the blood isn't contained within blood vessels that can be pressurized and allow the blood to be pushed out of the way. Because IT'S A FUCKING BRUISE.

        Once blood leaves the vasculature, it is broken down into a couple of proteins. Hemosiderin is taken up by white blood cells. Biliverdin turns your turds brown (eventually). They make your bruises turn "black and blue" and eventually yellow. This takes days and is the reason why purpuric rashes don't fade immediately in response to anything.

        You are conflating "hives" and "purpura." Kindly pay tuition if you want to continue.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I don't imagine the rash actually disappeared, but with the active bleeding stopped, it would look much better in short order. Of course, once the bruising develops, they'll look like hell again for a few days.

  • by msauve ( 701917 )
    What's the FDA got to do with this? The drug was administered in Liberia.
    • Ever hear of ethics?

      • If I have a rare disease with no "known" cure...give me anything it cant get any worse. Ethical is trying when your odds are "well you are most likely gonna die, we worked on this, might work , might not... but you are dead if we do nothing" giving someone a chance (with consent of the patient of course)
    • The FDA also has oversight of exported drugs and devices. They don't have to be approved for sale in the US in order to be exported, but do have to meet some requirements.

      On the other end, most countries require an export certificate from the country of origin.

      http://www.fda.gov/Internation... [fda.gov]

  • It worked for Agent Coulson.
  • "Secret" (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @07:21PM (#47603423) Journal

    It's only "secret" in the sense that almost all pharmaceutical research is completely ignored by the media.

    If you dig around you'll find some articles about ZMAPP in no-name low-impact journals like PNAS and Science.

  • Some scale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:13PM (#47603681)

    There's a lot of hype on this Ebola topic in the media.

    Lets have some scale:

    The population of Africa: 1 billion
    http://worldpopulationreview.c... [worldpopul...review.com]

    Number of people to die of Ebola in the past year: 887
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/... [usatoday.com]

    The number of deaths in Liberia alone during the last flu outbreak: 5,561
    http://www.worldlifeexpectancy... [worldlifeexpectancy.com]

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:22PM (#47603743) Homepage Journal

    Science magazine had a good article about the drugs being developed for Ebola. One drug, TKM-Ebola, is in Phase I trials, but the FDA put them on hold because they wanted to change the protocol to protect participants' safety.

    One researcher, Erica Ollmann Saphire, said that, because of the high case fatality rate, if she were exposed to Ebola, "I'd run for the freezer and ask for forgiveness instead of permission." But in cases like this, they usually can get FDA permission, under compassionate use. One German researcher got a needlestick, and they rushed the VSV-vaccine to her. But those were individual cases, in western hospitals, and they can't give an untested drug to a population in Africa (although some American pharmaceutical companies have tried that, and it didn't go too well).

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cont... [sciencemag.org]
    Science 25 July 2014:
    Vol. 345 no. 6195 pp. 364-365
    DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6195.364
    Infectious Diseases
    Ebola drugs still stuck in lab
    Martin Enserink

    For you suckers who are stuck behind the paywall, it had a good table that summed it all up:


    VSV-based vaccines. Profectus BioSciences; Public Health Agency of Canada

    Adenovirus-based vaccines. At least three different labs/companies


    TKM-Ebola (RNAi-based). Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. In phase I trials, but the FDA put a hold

    Nucleoside analog. U.S.Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

    Monoclonal antibodies. Many labs/companies

    AVI-7537 (antisense-based). Sarepta Therapeutics.

    Everybody who does clinical research knows that most of the drugs that work great in mice, work reasonably well in monkeys, passably well in Phase I trials, poorly in Phase II trials, and not at all in Phase III trials.

    There were a few articles in the New England Journal of Medicine on the FDA's fast track approvals. They found that when the FDA started speeding up drug approvals, they started approving more drugs with life-threatening side effects that had to be withdrawn from the market.

    Of course, if you're dying of a disease now, the calculus is different.

    • Everybody who does clinical research knows that most of the drugs that work great in mice, work reasonably well in monkeys, passably well in Phase I trials, poorly in Phase II trials, and not at all in Phase III trials.

      This reminds me of the problems with using animal models [neavs.org] in drug testing. To put it bluntly, if you go back to drugs that were used before mice drug trials were 'the way to go', an awful lot of our 'go to' drugs would never pass the mice trials.

  • Secret, my ass (Score:5, Informative)

    by Calibax ( 151875 ) * on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:25PM (#47603771)

    Mapp Biopharmaceutical have been publishing articles about their ebola research in scientific journals since 2011. They seem to be a very secretive at all.

    Maybe CNN thinks it's a secret because it hasn't been covered in the mainstream press - TMZ and Entertainment Weekly have completely ignored the company.

    • It's "secret" in the same sense that Zimmerman was a "white man" ...because race-baiting is a surefire way to gin up an audience.

      To hell with the facts. And consequences. Nobody pays us to pay attention to those.

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Monday August 04, 2014 @08:52PM (#47603921) Homepage Journal

    I found the quote:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cont... [sciencemag.org]
    Science 18 July 2014:
    Vol. 345 no. 6194 pp. 252-257
    DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6194.252
    The elusive heart fix
    Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

    “In mouse studies there's always dramatic improvement,” says Joseph Wu, a cardiologist studying stem cells at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. “Once you go to a large animal study, it's moderate improvement, once you go to a phase I trial, it's decent improvement, and once you go to phase II, phase III, there's no improvement. This happens again and again and again. It's the entire field of biological research.”

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