Ebola: Why is ZMapp not widely available for Africans?

The experimental drug ZMapp has been administered to European victims of Ebola Virus Disease, among these the two American doctors Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol and the British nurse William Pooley, who all survived the disease. Given the severity of the current EVD outbreak in West Africa, why hasn't the drug been mass produced for Africans?

True, apart from the three cases cited above, ZMapp has been administered to three Liberians, one of whom died and to a Spanish priest, who also died two days after receiving the drug. Now, Mapp has declared that stocks of the treatment have run out.

While there has not been time for a clinical trials process, the World Health Organization declared on August 12 this year "In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention." Apart from this, there have been no adverse reactions from the humans to whom the drug has been administered and in trials on monkeys, eighteen of these animals who were given EVD were cured by ZMapp.

In a world in which one point seven trillion USD are spent every year in mass-producing weaponry to murder fellow human beings, is it beyond the realm of possibility that we can do the same in the area of medicine to save lives? If the manufacturing process of ZMapp takes several months, then why only now is the pharmaceutical world beginning to discuss mass production, when back in March, in this column, I was reporting on the severity of the outbreak in Guinea, and then by April was warning of a pandemic threat as the disease reached Liberia and Sierra Leone, and now, Nigeria and Senegal?

The potential for a worldwide calamity involving Ebola Virus Disease is as real as it is terrifying: the worst case scenario would be for the disease to be carried to the People's Republic of China, South-East Asia or the Indian subcontinent and spread among the heavily-populated sprawling cities there, virtually unchecked and uncheckable.

What is ZMapp?

ZMapp is a treatment composed of the use of cultures of cells which make monoclonal antibodies, mAbs. The experimentation began with MB-003, a cocktail of three human/human-mouse mAbs, namely c13C6, h13F6 and c6D8, which showed promising results when administered to rhesus monkeys infected with EVD. The process evolved to the creation of ZMab, a cocktail of three mouse mAbs, namely m1H3, m2G4 and m4G7. These also proved very promising in trials on Ebola-infected macaque monkeys. ZMapp humanized the three ZMab antibodies and tested these with combinations of MB-003 first in guinea pigs and then in monkeys. The best and most successful therapeutic combinations were the c13C6 from MB-003 and the humanized mAbs c2G4 and c4G7, from ZMab, and the result is what is known today as ZMapp.

If Ebola Virus Disease had broken out in New York City, London or Paris, the response from the pharmaceutical industry would have been immediate six months ago. Because it is regarded as some weird and exotic tropical disease which affects Africans because they eat dried bats, and because it is widely regarded that such things happen in Africa, now the World Health organization is stating that it intends to eradicate the disease within six to nine months, doesn't the entire response seem too little, too late?

Once again, public opinion is shaped against Africa by gloom and doom stories in the media, painting a picture of a dark continent fraught with disease, difficulties, war, conflict and ignorance, a media in which it is difficult to find one single good news story coming out of Africa. No wonder they don't trust the outside world, and in particular, the West.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


([email protected])


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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey