Liberian Doctor Treated with Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Dies

August 26, 2014
Davy James, Associate Editor

Efficacy of treatment still undetermined as World Health Organization raises cost of battle strategy.

Efficacy of treatment still undetermined as World Health Organization raises cost of battle strategy.

A Liberian doctor who was treated with the same experimental Ebola drug given to 2 stricken American relief workers who subsequently recovered has died, according to the New York Times.

The report stated Dr. Abraham Borbor, deputy chief medical doctor for Liberia’s largest hospital, succumbed to the virus yesterday just weeks after receiving 1 of the 6 available doses of the drug.

ZMapp, which was developed by San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc, gained exposure after it was used to treat Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who showed signs of recovery shortly after receiving the drug. The pair, who became infected with Ebola while working with patients in Liberia, were released last week from Emory University Hospital after being airlifted to the United States for treatment, but the role ZMapp played in their recovery is unknown.

"If the question is, 'Did Zmapp do this?' The answer is that we just don't know," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told USA Today. "People who are in much less sophisticated medical care conditions in West Africa are recovering 50% of the time."

ZMapp acts as a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies that bind and inactivate the virus by recognizing infected cells and triggering the immune system to kill them off, according to Mapp. The company said it ran out of its supply of the drug after responding to the request from Liberia.

ZMapp was also used to treat 75-year-old Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who contracted the disease during relief efforts in Liberia. Less than 1 week after he was airlifted to Madrid, Pajares died on August 12, 2014,though officials said that old age may have been a factor.

Despite its unknown efficacy, Liberia and the FDA reached an agreement on a deal to ship ZMapp to treat 2 infected doctors in the Ebola ravaged nation. The condition of the other doctor to receive the drug has not been released.

After a second, different outbreak was reported on Sunday in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now revising the estimated cost figure associated with containing the virus, which has now caused more than 1400 fatalities with more than 2600 confirmed and suspected cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a strategic plan published July 31, 2014, the WHO asked for $71 million to implement an Ebola outbreak response plan over a period of 6 months. Now, less than a month later, WHO is asking for $430 million to stop all transmission of the virus within 6 to 9 months, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

“The response at the beginning wasn’t robust enough,” David Heymann, professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in the Bloomberg report. “It’s a step forward that they’ve made the plans and I’m glad they’re emphasizing rapid containment as a start.”