Will Ebola-Stricken Nurse Nina Pham Get ZMapp? The Experimental Drug Is In Short Supply
Well, it's official. In addition to the infection and death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who brought Ebola into the United States in late September, the first case of actual infection on American soil has taken place. The victim, a nurse in Dallas, Texas named Nina Pham, was one of the people tasked with caring for Duncan. Her diagnosis was confirmed on Sunday, raising an important question: will Ebola-stricken nurse Nina Pham receive ZMapp, the experimental Ebola drug which has been administered to a number of patients before, or will she be out of luck like Duncan was?
It's a sensible question, considering how much attention this stateside Ebola infection has gotten, and how much both state and federal health officials would like to nip any possible crisis in the bud. ZMapp was given to Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol after the pair came down with the highly lethal virus while working as aid volunteers in West Africa, and while it's too early to know for sure just how effective the drug is, both of them survived.
Duncan, on the other hand, was not given ZMapp, but a different experimental drug called Brincidofovir, according to the Washington Post. This combined with the hospital's initial turning-away of Duncan has led to outrage and even accusations of racial bias by his surviving family.
At this point, the answer is impossible to know for certain. Both experimental and still not as well understood as would be ideal, ZMapp is also in short supply — it was this shortage that was cited by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital as the reason Duncan never received the treatment.
It's possible that ZMapp production could increase abroad in the future, if reporting out of Israel is accurate — an Israeli drug maker claims they can produce ZMapp from tobacco plants (which is what it derives from, interestingly) in efficient fashion, and that'd be a huge boon to the medical community if true. But for the time being, there's been no indication yet that the treatment will be made available to Pham. For what it's worth, a nurse infected in Spain has reportedly received ZMapp, and while she's far from out of the woods, her condition is apparently improving.
Basically, in spite of the drug's largely untested nature, it's something that anyone suffering from this disease is likely to want to have at their disposal, just in case it really works. This current outbreak has only seen a mortality rate of about 48 percent, so even a handful of anecdotal instances of it helping are no guarantee. But that's the sort of risk you're more willing to take when you're ill with a potentially fatal hemmorhagic fever.
Pham, a 26-year-old nurse and graduate of Texas Christian University, according to ABC News, has been isolated since her diagnosis was confirmed, and Centers For Disease Control Tom Freiden suggested a "breach of protocol" must have been to blame, though nobody is quite sure yet what happened.
Images: Getty Images (2)