Thursday 27 November 2014

Untested Ebola drugs cleared for use as priest is first European victim

Charlie Cooper

Published 13/08/2014 | 02:30

A Spanish missionary who caught Ebola in Liberia has died of the disease.

Miguel Pajares, 75, died yesterday at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid, where he was being treated in isolation.

His death came as the World Health Organisation ruled that experimental drugs never before tested in humans can be used to treat Ebola victims in West Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said, as the death toll from the worst outbreak of the virus in history rose above 1,000. He was evacuated from Liberia last week to Spain, where he was reportedly given the experimental ZMapp drug, which had not been tested on humans. Miguel Pajares, 75, died on Tuesday at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid, where he was being treated in isolation. He was evacuated from Liberia last week to Spain, where he was reportedly given the experimental ZMapp drug, which had not been tested on humans.

Mr Pajares had been working with Ebola patients at the San Jose de Monrovia Hospital when he became infected.

He was part of the San Juan de Dios order, a Spanish Catholic humanitarian group that runs hospitals around the world. Spain's Health Ministry confirmed it had obtained a course of the American-manufactured drug for Mr Pajares but the hospital would not say on Tuesday whether it had been used.

The priest's order had earlier said he would be given the serum, which aims to boost the body's immune response to Ebola with antibodies grown in tobacco plants.

Two American aid workers given ZMapp after also catching Ebola in Liberia are said to be improving but there is no way to know whether the drug is responsible or if they are recovering naturally like other survivors. Aid workers and doctors transfer Miguel Pajares, from a plane to an ambulance as he leaves the Torrejon de Ardoz military airbase, near Madrid, Spain It is next due to be given to two doctors in Liberia and the manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, said it had already run out of its supply in response to demand from an unidentified West African country. The World Health Organisation held a meeting to debate the ethics of using an untested drug in attempts to treat Ebola, balancing the risks of side effects with the disease's rampant spread. It kills around 60 per cent of people infected and more than 1,000 people have died so far, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

Two American medics will be treated with an experimental serum, but as Health Correspondent Charlie Cooper reports, the affected countries do not have the resources to combat the world's worst outbreak of the disease

The WHO's decision, is a reflection of the unprecedented scale of the crisis, and means that an experimental serum, which has already been used on two American and one Spanish Ebola victim, will be dispatched to affected countries in West Africa. However, the American manufacturer said yesterday that its very limited stock of the drug had already run out, and that it would take months to develop more.

(© Independent News Service)

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