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Secret Serum for Ebola Virus Likely Saved 2 American Patients

Image: Secret Serum for Ebola Virus Likely Saved 2 American Patients An ambulance arrives at Emory University Hospital transporting an American that was infected with the Ebola virus, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

By Nick Sanchez   |   Monday, 04 Aug 2014 12:59 PM

A secret, experimental serum called ZMapp likely saved the life of Kent Brantly, the American doctor who recently contracted the Ebola virus while working in Liberia to stop the outbreak affecting West Africa.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta reported Monday that three frozen vials of ZMapp, devolped by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., were flown to Liberia last week "in a last ditch effort" to save Brantly and one other infected American, Nancy Writebol. Both worked for Samaritan's Purse, an aid organization.

Dr. Brantly, 33, came down with a fever on July 22, and Writebol's symptoms appeared just three days later.

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The two were being treated at the same Liberian hospital where they had been treating patients themselves when the ZMapp serum arrived on Thursday morning.

According to CNN, "Brantly asked that Writebol be given the first dose because he was younger and he thought he had a better chance of fighting [the virus], and she agreed. However, as the first vial was still thawing, Brantly's condition took a sudden turn for the worse."

Brantly began experiencing heavy, labored breathing, and told his doctors he thought he would die.

Everyone agreed that his only chance was the serum, Writebol agreed he should have it, and it was quickly administered through an IV. In less than an hour, his condition improved dramatically. His breathing eased, and his body rash subsided. One doctors caring for him called the development "miraculous."

The next day, Friday, he was able to shower on his own before being brought back in a special Gulfstream air ambulance to Emory University, where he was admitted into a special infectious diseases unit co-operated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Writebol received one vial of the medication on Saturday. The medicine helped, but did not improve her condition as dramatically. A second dose on Sunday, however, is said to have given her a significant boost in recovery.

ZMapp had only been tested on monkeys before being administered to Dr. Brantly and Writebol, who both had previous knowledge of the serum and gave informed consent to receive the treatment.

ZMapp saved four monkeys infected with the virus when administered within 24 hours of infection, and two out of four when administered within 48 hours.

Writebol will be brought back to the U.S. on Tuesday.

Over 700 people in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have died of Ebola since it was first detected in February.

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