African clinics to begin testing Ebola treatments; one made from tobacco in Kentucky isn’t plentiful enough to be part of effort

Doctors Without Borders will begin testing three experimental therapies to treat Ebola in December, bypassing the traditional progression of testing and giving the treatments directly to infected patients, Alice Park reports for Time magazine.

Driving this decision is the death toll, which has surpassed 5,000, with more than 14,000 patients still affected in West Africa, Park reports.

“We are on the front line, and when you have a disease that kills 50 percent to 70 percent of patients, then we have a certain responsibility to try to do our best to host trials for treatments in our facilities,” without waiting for the usual testing, Bertrand Draguez, medical director of Doctors Without Borders, told Park.

The treatment ZMapp, a combination of antibodies that was given to two U.S. aid workers who survived the infection, will not be one of the treatments because it is not available in enough doses to properly test in West Africa, Park reports. ZMapp is manufactured from a unique tobacco leaves grown in Owensboro, Ky.

The treatments that will be tested are the antiviral drug favipiravir, the antiviral drug brincidofovir, and whole blood and plasma from Ebola survivors.

Draguez told Park that the two antiviral drugs “rose to the top of the list because of a combination of their promise in controlling the Ebola virus and their availability,” plus their ease of distribution; they are in pills, taken orally.

Patients will be given detailed information about the treatments and given the option of taking the experimental therapies, Park reports.

The World Health Organization recently announced plans to test two vaccines in West Africa as well.

These trials are a “good first step” in how best to treat Ebola, and while they might not help those currently infected, will be “invaluable for the inevitable outbreaks that emerge in the future,” Park writes.

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