The experimental Ebola treatment administered to two Americans who contracted the virus in Africa was a medical cocktail called ZMapp, derived in part from tobacco plants, that has shown promise in tests on monkeys. It had not been evaluated on humans.
A spokesperson from Samaritan's Purse confirmed that ZMapp was given to the patients. The treatment was made by a California company called Mapp Biopharmaceutical, a National Institutes of Health spokeswoman confirmed Monday.
Both patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have improved since receiving it, according to doctors and aid organizations that they work with.
Brantly is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He received one dose of the treatment in Liberia and a second after he was flown to the United States, NBC News learned Monday.
Writebol is expected to be flown to the same hospital on Tuesday. The president of SIM USA, an aid organization that she works with, told MSNBC on Monday that Writebol was “up and walking” and getting stronger.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s infectious diseases institute, told MSNBC that the experimental serum was a “cocktail of antibodies,” proteins that the body makes to block the virus.
ZMapp is a combination of two agents, made by Mapp with LeafBio in San Diego and Defyrus Inc. in Toronto. One of them, MB-003, provided 100 percent protection to monkeys when given right after exposure to Ebola virus, and even helped after symptoms developed.
The other is ZMAb, a combination drug that its developer says provided 100 percent survival in primates a day after exposure and 50 percent survival after two days.
Larry Zeitlin, the president of Mapp Biopharmaceutical, described ZMapp as "a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies" and said in an email that the company was “in the midst of an intense effort to help address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.”
Kevin Whaley, the CEO, told NBC San Diego that the company is 11 years old and has nine employees. He said it has been working on the Ebola treatment for 10 years. He declined an on-camera interview, saying that he wanted the focus to be on the Ebola victims in Africa and the two Americans who contracted the virus.
Wonbo Woo, Stacey Naggiar and Lisa Tolin of NBC News contributed to this report.
First published August 4 2014, 12:17 PM