Experimental Ebola serum could change treatment forever

FORT WORTH — From his Fort Worth office, UNT Health Science Center chair of Internal Medicine Dr. Darrin D'Agostino says he's excited to see a scientific breakthrough in the treatment of the Ebola virus, especially one that hadn't been proven to work, but is proving to be a source of hope.

The experimental serum is being used on two Americans who were infected with Ebola in West Africa. Both recipients — Dr. Kent Brantly of Fort Worth and missionary Nancy Writebol of North Carolina — showed improvement.

More than 800 people have died in West Africa since the Ebola outbreak began in the spring, but because the serum hasn't made it through trials and hasn't yet been proven safe, it couldn't be used on a widespread basis; it would be like experimenting on humans.

Writebol and Brantly had to give their explicit consent for the serum to be administered.

"Though it was given to one person and then a second person doesn't mean and there were positive outcomes; it doesn't mean that giving it to 100 people there won't be complications," D'Agostino said. "The real issue is making sure the science is true and sound."

Few companies focus on Ebola research, in part because of the return on investment. Another reason is that outbreaks, while serious and often fatal, are rare.

"From an urgency point of view, Ebola is not something that shows up all the time and tends to get epidemic," D'Agostino said.

"There are a lot of smart people working on this that have just saved two lives," D'Agostino said.


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