Ebola-infected monkeys saved by Canadian scientists

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SHAFAQNA- Canadian scientists have rescued from death monkeys that were infected with a lethal dose of Ebola, in the latest study of an experimental drug that has been used on a handful of Ebola victims in West Africa.

The antibody based compound known as ZMapp rescued 100 per cent of 18 Ebola-infected rhesus macaques, even when the drug was administered up to five days after infection with the virus.

All treated monkeys recovered fully and show no side-effects, said Dr. Gary Kobinger, chief of special pathogens at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Three Ebola-infected macaques that didn’t receive ZMapp died.

It is the first study reported in monkeys of the version of ZMapp now being administered in the West African outbreak.

The unlicensed cocktail, produced in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Canada, still requires testing in humans and is unlikely to ever be produced in sufficient enough batches to make an impact on the current Ebola outbreak ravaging parts of West Africa. A notice on the website of ZMapp’s developer, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals Inc., said the available supply has been exhausted.

The drug is generated in tobacco plants genetically modified to produce the antibodies

and Kobinger said that, from what he understands, it takes one month to produce 20 to 40 doses.

It’s not clear how the experiments in monkeys would translate into humans.

But Kobinger said the results are a promising signal the experimental compound might be the long-sought therapy against one of the most deadly pathogens known.

“What’s quite remarkable is that we could rescue some of the animals that had advanced disease. For us, advanced disease is an animal that is just a few days from the end, if not only a few hours,” Kobinger told reporters Friday.

A study published last November testing an earlier version of the drug found Ebola-infected macaques survived after given the mixture within 24 hours of infection.

In the new study, Kobinger expected to see an improvement when the animals were treated further out after infection, which would be more like the case with Ebola-infected humans, but it was beyond what he expected.

“I was quite surprised … that we would be going as far, and this time rescue animals up to day five – and all of them – which was fantastic news.

“What’s quite remarkable is that we could rescue some of the animals that had advanced disease. For us, advanced disease is an animal that is just a few days from the end, if not only a few hours,” Kobinger told reporters Friday.

A study published last November testing an earlier version of the drug found Ebola-infected macaques survived after given the mixture within 24 hours of infection.

Meanwhile, Canada’s public health agency said three mobile lab team members, who were supporting the Ebola outbreak response efforts in Sierra Leone, arrived safely in Canada Friday evening.

The three were pulled back early as a precautionary measure after three people in their hotel complex were infected with Ebola.

The team members arrived on a private charter plane Friday night and travelled to private residences once they were deemed healthy by a quarantine officer.

They will be voluntarily self-isolating for the remainder of the incubation period. The agency said the risk to Canadians remains “very low.”

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