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Two Americans with Ebola given experimental drug

The two Ebola-stricken American missionaries were given an experimental serum before they were flown back to the United States.

Dr Kent Brantly and Ms Nancy Writebol, both of whom had contracted Ebola while helping patients in Liberia, gave their consent for a drug cocktail known as ZMapp to be used on them.

ZMapp has been tested on monkeys but not on humans. It was developed by San Diego company Mapp Biopharmaceutical and manufactured in Kentucky using fast-growing tobacco plants, which act as a "photocopier" to produce the necessary proteins.

Dr Kent Brantly (in blue) was infected with the deadly virus while helping to battle an outbreak in West Africa. He arrived back in the US on Saturday. Ms Nancy Writebol is supposed to arrive today (Aug 5).

Mr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said: "This so-called experimental serum is a cocktail of antibodies that have the capability of blocking the virus."

"The physicians in charge of the patients’ care made a risk-benefit decision. The risk was less than the potential benefit," he said.

While it is too early to say whether the treatment saved the lives of the two missionaries or slowed the disease’s progression enough to allow them to return to the US for care, some reports have suggested that both patients improved after getting the serum.

A colourised transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus virion.

It is unclear whether the duo will continue to receive doses of the ZMapp serum during their treatment in Atlanta. Any use of an experimental drug in the United States must receive the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration.

There is no approved cure for Ebola and no proven vaccine to prevent the disease.

According to an update on Monday from the World Health Organization, 887 people have died in four countries – Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria - and more than 1,600 people have taken ill by Ebola in the current outbreak.

Source: Washington Post