WHO hopes for more Ebola drug doses, vaccine progress by end of year

Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:46pm EDT
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* Supply challenge after green light to use unproven drugs

* Race to scale up production, testing of Ebola treatments

* Two vaccines set to enter clinical trials in coming weeks

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) - World Health Organization experts fighting the world's worst outbreak of Ebola hope for improved supplies of experimental treatments and progress with a vaccine by the end of the year.

That may come too late to put an end to the current epidemic, which is more likely to be stopped by standard infection control measures, but it offers hope for the next inevitable outbreak.

After ruling on Tuesday that it is ethical to offer unproven Ebola drugs to people infected or at risk in West Africa, the challenge is to secure enough doses to make a difference in an outbreak that has already claimed more than 1,000 lives.

An experimental drug called ZMapp from U.S. firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical appears to have had "a dramatic and very rapid effect" in the case of two U.S. doctors, WHO assistant director-general Marie-Paule Kieny told reporters.

However, the scant supplies of this drug are now effectively exhausted, after Liberia secured doses for two of its doctors. Spain's Health Ministry said a 75-year-old Spanish priest, the only other person known to have been given ZMapp, had died.   Continued...