Experimental drugs considered for New York Ebola patient

In Photo: Workers from BioRecoveryCorp carry barrels from the apartment building of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer on Friday, in New York. Spencer remained in stable condition while isolated in a hospital, talking by cell phone to his family and assisting disease detectives who are accounting for his every movement since arriving in New York from Guinea via Europe on October 17.

THE team at Bellevue Hospital Center treating Craig Spencer for Ebola is considering any and all experimental drugs or other treatments that might help him, an adviser to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Doctors treating Spencer will consider “literally any and all possible therapies that might be available,” including various experimental Ebola therapies or blood transfusions from survivors, Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and special adviser to de Blasio, said on Saturday in a telephone interview.

“All bets are off with this,” Redlener said. “If it is necessary to save his life, if it is available, it will be tried.” In terms of experimental therapies, “I don’t know whether anything has been started, although I am positive it has been under discussion.” In the meantime, the focus is on providing high-quality supportive care, he said.  Spencer, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in New York, is in stable condition at an isolation unit at Bellevue, New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said on Saturday at a briefing. Spencer was rushed to the hospital on Friday after coming down with 100.3 fever. Tests later confirmed the virus.

Treatment so far

SPENCER is in stable condition, Bassett said, and is talking on the phone with family and friends. His treatment so far includes supporting his electrolytes and fluid balance, and carefully monitoring his vital signs, another official said at the briefing.

An emergency medicine doctor at Columbia University-New York Presbyterian Hospital, Spencer worked with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea treating Ebola patients. He returned on October 17 to New York.

“It is not likely” that Spencer will be transferred to another hospital with more experience treating Ebola patients, Redlener said. In addition to help from experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the team at Bellevue is getting advice from at least two of the other US hospitals with experience treating Ebola patients successfully, he said.

A variety of experimental drugs have already been tried on other Ebola patients during the current outbreak. None of the drugs have been tested for efficacy against Ebola in people, so their effectiveness against the disease is not clear. Companies working on treatments include Fujifilm Holdings Corp., Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. and Chimerix Inc.

Experimental drugs

ZMAPP, a cocktail of three antibodies from San Diego-based Mapp was used to treat two infected American health workers who recovered, a Spanish priest who died, and health-care workers in West Africa. Its supply was exhausted in August, and various efforts are under way to make more.

TKM-Ebola from Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. was used to treat Rick Sacra, the American missionary doctor who recovered. And brincidofovir, made by Durham, North Carolina-based Chimerix Inc. was used to treat both Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian patient who died in Texas, as well as Ashoka Mukpo, the American television cameraman who survived.

Robert Langreth / Bloomberg

Image Credits: AP/Frank Franklin II

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