A guide to Ebola drugs on the horizon

Liberian national Thomas Erne Duncan will receive an experimental antiviral drug called brincidofovir

Published October 7, 2014 2:26PM (EDT)


No cure exists for Ebola, a virus that has killed at least 3,431 people and infected 7,470 and ravaged West Africa. That said, drug manufacturers and researchers have been scrambling to put new treatments into clinical trials, with the hope that one formula might prove effective in the fight against the disease. Below are three of the most promising treatments.


Thomas Erne Duncan, the Liberian national and first person to have the disease on American soil, will reportedly be given this drug. The Hill reports:

Chimerix, a North Carolina-based biopharmaceutical company, announced Monday that it has received approval to administer [the antiviral drug] that has successfully treated Ebola in lab tests.

The drug has also been tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, though it is not expected to win approval for wide public use until late 2016.

Brincidofovir was developed to treat a variety of serious diseases, and has shown positive results treating smallpox and adenovirus, however according to Thomas Geisbert who helped develop TKM-Ebola (below) there is no evidence that the drug will be effective against Ebola in animals.


This is the one we've all heard of. CNN reports:

Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. is in the early stages of developing its drug, ZMapp. It was given to the Americans taken from Africa to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment in August. A total of seven patients got the drug, and it seems to have had success...

Since the drug is so new, there are no doses of it left. The Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Mapp to make more for early-stage clinical safety studies.


This experimental drug was used on Dr. Richard Sacra, a patient taken from Liberia to Nebraska this September. The drug is manufactured by the Canadian company Tekmira Pharmaceuticals and showed "100 percent protection from an otherwise lethal dose of Zaire Ebola virus" according to the company's website. USA Today reports:

[Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center] notes that the Food and Drug Administration put a temporary hold on clinical trials of TKM-Ebola earlier this year in order to investigate the flu-like symptoms that some patients experienced as side effects.

According to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, the drug "can be quite difficult for patients to take" and "can actually make someone sicker." TKM-Ebola is given intravenously, and IV access can be challenging with such a sick patient, explained Dr. Christopher Kratochvil, chief medical officer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.


According to CNN, several vaccines are in development that have shown tentative success.

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Clinical Trials Drugs Ebola Thomas Erne Duncan