Ebola survivor urges ZMapp manufacturer to speed up drug production

A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug is urging the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa,

The drug developed by a Canadian-led research team healed all infected monkeys in a trial

A Liberian health worker prepares to remove the body of a man that they believe died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday. Meanwhile a Liberian health worker who recovered from the disease after receiving an experimental drug urges the manufacturer to speed up production and send it to Africa. (Abbas Dulleh/Associated Press)

A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug urged the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa,

Physician's assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from hospital Saturday after she survived Ebola, which has been fatal in more than half the cases sweeping West Africa.

Kobbah contracted the disease while working at a government-run hospital north of the capital.

“[The] house is on fire right now" with celebration she said, about her family’s reaction to news that she had been cured.

Kobbah urged the manufacturer of the experimental drug known as ZMapp to step up production.

"They need to make more ZMapp and send to us," she said.

The company has said that all its supplies are exhausted and it will take months to make more. 

Liberian health workers outside a home of a man that they believed died from the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa eventually could exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times as many as are now known. (Abbas Dulleh/Associated Press)
Doctors have said there is no way to know whether ZMapp made a difference or if survivors like Kobbah recovered on their own.  About 45 per cent of people infected in this outbreak have recovered without the aid of a cure.

The drug had never been tested in humans before it was given to two Americans who were infected with Ebola in Liberia. They survived Ebola and were released from an Atlanta hospital.

Positive signs for ZMapp

However, a study released online Friday by the journal Nature found that ZMapp healed all 18 monkeys infected with the deadly virus.

ZMapp, developed with involvement of the Public Health Agency of Canada and U.S. researchers, is a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies that is designed to bind to the protein of the Ebola virus, neutralizing the virus so it can’t do any further damage.

A Phase 1 safety study is scheduled to begin in healthy humans in early 2015. Mapp BioPharmaceuticals, which has licensed the drug, is conducting the next stages of research needed to seek regulatory approval for ZMapp.

A new plan released by the U.N. health agency to stop Ebola also assumes that the actual number of cases in many hard-hit areas may be two to four times higher than currently reported. (Abbas Dulleh/Associated Press)
If safety data from a Phase 1 trial in humans in the U.S. supports the compassionate use of ZMapp, Kobinger expects it could be used under Health Canada’s special access program possibly by spring.  But scaling up production in tobacco plants to stockpile thousands of doses is another matter.

Blockades lifted in Liberia

Meanwhile, tensions diminished Saturday in the West Point neighbourhood of Liberia's capital after authorities lifted a blockade that had sparked unrest.

Residents living in the area had feared running out of food and safe water on the peninsula.

Liberia's president had ordered the barricade on Aug. 19 after West Point residents stormed an Ebola health centre several days earlier.

Residents said they did not want sick people being brought into the community, although those staying at the centre were only under observation during a 21-day incubation period.

Friends embrace each other on a street outside of West Point, which has been closed in by Liberian security forces to stop all movement the past week in a attempt to control the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia, Liberia on Saturday. (Abbas Dulleh/Associated Press)
Amid the ruckus, some protesters made off with blood-stained mattresses and other materials that could potentially spread the Ebola virus.

Liberia has been the hardest hit of the five countries with Ebola cases in West Africa, reporting at least 694 deaths among 1,378 cases.

More than 3,000 cases have been reported across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Senegal announced its first case on Friday.