Head of Virology Department at the University of Ghana, Dr. Kwamena Sagoe has expressed confidence that the experimental drug, ZMapp would be a potential cure for the deadly Ebola virus.
“I am confident that it could be a cure,” he said.
“We’ve learnt lessons from HIV. The fact is the virus has a particular way of growing. So once, you can identify how it grows and once you can identify which of the steps are very specific and unique to the virus; you can actually design things to prevent those steps from occurring. Once you do that, you can successfully truncate the growth of the virus,” Dr. Sagoe explained.
The drug, according to him, is designed to prevent the virus from growing and spreading further to other parts of the human body.
He continued: “Viruses need specific kinds of receptors to be able to attach to enter the cell and infect the cell. So I guess that this is what the drug is doing; it’s preventing the virus from spreading within the body.”
Two Americans were infected with the virus and nearing death. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol had their conditions significantly improved after receiving the ZMapp medication.
ZMapp was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., based in San Diego in the United States.
The CNN reported that Brantly was able to walk into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after being evacuated to the United States last week and Writebol is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday.
On July 22, Brantly woke up feeling feverish. Fearing the worst, Brantly immediately isolated himself. Writebol's symptoms started three days later. A rapid field blood test confirmed the infection in both of them after they had become ill with fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.
Ebola is believed to have infected 1,603 people in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, killing 887 of them as of Friday, the World Health Organization said.
It is believed Brantly and Writebol, who worked with the aid organization Samaritan's Purse, contracted Ebola from another health workers at their hospital in Liberia, although the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case investigation has yet to be released.
About the new drug
According to company documents, four monkeys infected with Ebola survived after being given the therapy within 24 hours after infection.
Two of four other monkeys that started therapy within 48 hours after infection also survived. One monkey that was not treated died within five days of exposure to the virus.
The medicine is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus and then the antibodies generated within the mice's blood were harvested to create the medicine. It works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.
The patients were told that the treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sagoe has advised the general public to destroy (burn) all bats seen lying on the ground especially in Tamale and at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra.
The fruit bats are easy carriers of the virus.
In another development, Ghana’s Health Minister, Dr. Kwaku Agyeman Mensah has also expressed hope that with ongoing efforts at the country’s borders, the deadly Ebola virus would not spread into the country.
He was impressed with the level of preparedness at the country’s borders when he paid a working visit to the Elubo border in the Western region Tuesday.
While inspecting screening measures at the border, Dr. Mensah charged officials to be extra vigilant not to allow persons suspected of Ebola to enter the country, adding it is everybody’s duty to join in the fight.
He also urged them to ask all persons entering the country questions on their health status and conducting thorough checks on them.
World Health Organization Country Representative in Ghana, Dr. Magda Robalo also said she was happy with the measures at the border.
According to her, steps have been taken further over the past few weeks.
She said protective equipment have been provided with the awareness level intensified.