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ZMapp trials start in Liberia

Published on 02/03/15 at 12:04pm
Ebola image

Clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of the experimental Ebola vaccine ZMapp are underway in infected parts of Liberia.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) announced the launch of the randomised trial last Friday, and it will be the first controlled study for the untested treatment.

The vaccine has been used to treat nine infected patients since 2014 including UK nurse, William Pooley who contracted the disease during his time volunteering in West Africa.

In a statement, Dr Anthony Fauci who is a director at NIAID, explained that the trial could provide the scientific evidence needed to indicate whether ZMapp is safe and effective.

He said that the studies’ findings will hope to show whether it can be safely used in the current outbreak in West Africa and in future outbreaks.

Manufactured by San Diego-based biotech firm Mapp, ZMapp attacks proteins on the surface of the virus, before last year the medicine had only been used in animal studies.

Participants of the trials will be monitored for a month after receiving three doses of the treatment. Infected US healthcare workers who have been transported home will also be included in the trials, as well as people in the US infected via secondary transmission.

Study sites are also being set up in various US locations including the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Emory University Hospital.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 9,675 deaths have been confirmed since the Ebola outbreak began in March 2014. Liberia has been hit the hardest, making up 4,057 of the suspected deaths in West Africa – followed by Sierra Leone which has reported 3,490 fatalities since last year.

Other pharma firms are working on Ebola treatments including offerings by GSK, who last year announced that trials of an experimental vaccine based on an adenovirus – which causes common colds for chimpanzees – were to begin.

Other drugs being tested include BCX4430 by North Carolina-based firm BioCryst, plus Japan's Toyama Chemical’s untried antiviral Favipiravir (T-705) – already active against a number of viruses including foot-and-mouth disease, yellow fever and influenza.

The ZMapp trial is likely to conclude in December next year, and if effective will become part of the standard of care for patients with Ebola.

Tom Robinson

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