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Ebola Drug ZMapp 100% Effective In Monkey Trial
Experimental ebola drug ZMapp has cured all of the infected monkeys it was tested on, lifting hopes it could be used to fight West Africa's deadliest ever outbreak.
Scientists reported the drug healed all 18 monkeys who were given a lethal dose of the virus.
According to the study, published by the journal Nature, the monkeys were treated with ZMapp three to five days after they were infected and when most were showing symptoms.
Even those suffering advanced symptoms like rashes, liver dysfunction and haemorrhaging and were just hours from death survived.
No other experimental ebola drug has ever shown success in primates so long after infection, with five days equal to between nine and 11 days after infection in humans.
Three monkeys who were not offered the treatment, produced by San Diago-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical, died by day eight.
"The level of improvement was utterly beyond my honest expectation," said one study leader, Gary Kobinger of the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg.
In a commentary published by Nature, virologist Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch, described the results as a "monumental success."
It was the first time the drug was tested on primates.
Although it is not known whether the success will be replicated on people, who can take up to 21 days to show symptoms, Mapp has already begun producing more of the drug ready for scientific human testing.
The company has no more doses of ZMapp, which is grown in tobacco plants and takes several months to produce.
The final doses were given to seven people infected with the virus in recent weeks.
Two American aid workers were among five people who survived after being given the drug.
Their physicians do not know whether it was instrumental in their recovery as roughly half of those infected during West Africa's recent outbreak have recovered naturally.
A Liberian doctor infected with the virus died this week despite being given the drug, as did a Spanish priest.
It comes after researchers revealed the outbreak may have started at a funeral in Sierra Leone.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1,552 people of 3,069 confirmed ebola cases have died.
WHO says there could be as many as 20,000 cases before the virus is brought under control.
There is no approved vaccine or treatment beyond keeping patients hydrated and nourished.
The virus spread to a fifth African country on Friday, with Senegal reporting that a university student who had travelled from Guinea was being treated.