Two American aid workers infected with Ebola are getting an experimental drug so novel it has never been tested for safety in humans and was only identified as a potential treatment earlier this year, thanks to a longstanding research program by the US government and the military. The workers, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, are improving, although it's impossible to know whether the treatment is the reason or they are recovering on their own, as others who have survived Ebola have done. Brantly is being treated at a special isolation unit at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital, and Writebol was expected to be flown there tomorrow in the same specially equipped plane that brought Brantly.
The experimental treatment the US aid workers are getting is called ZMapp and is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego. It is aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off Ebola and is made from antibodies produced by lab animals exposed to parts of the virus. In a statement, the company says they are "cooperating with appropriate government agencies to increase production as quickly as possible," but gives no details on who else might receive it or when. The FDA must grant permission to use experimental treatments in the US, but it doesn't have authority over the use of such a drug in other countries, and the aid workers were first treated in Liberia. The FDA would not confirm or deny FDA granting access to any experimental therapy for the aid workers while in the US.