LONDON (Reuters) - The first Briton to have contracted the deadly Ebola virus has been given the experimental drug ZMapp, the London hospital where he is being treated said on Tuesday, two days after he was brought back from West Africa.
British volunteer nurse William Pooley, 29, had been working at an Ebola centre in Sierra Leone when he tested positive for the disease. He was flown home on Sunday in a specially adapted Royal Air Force cargo plane and taken to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in north London.
“After careful consideration William decided that he would like to take the experimental drug ZMapp and he took the first dose of the drug on Monday,” the hospital said in a statement.
Governments and global health authorities in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are struggling to halt an outbreak of the Ebola virus, a contagious hemorrhagic fever that has killed more than 1,400 people since it appeared in West Africa in March.
Last week two U.S. aid workers who caught Ebola in Liberia were declared free of the virus after receiving the ZMapp drug at a hospital in the United States, raising hopes about its potential to fight the disease for which there is currently no cure or vaccine.
However, Liberia said on Monday a Liberian doctor who treated Ebola victims had died of the disease despite being given ZMapp.
The London hospital said on Tuesday Pooley was in “good spirits” and was sitting up and talking to the doctors and nurses who are treating him.
“The next few days will be crucial. The disease has a variable course and we will know much more in a week’s time,” said Mike Jacobs, infectious diseases consultant at the hospital.
Mapp Biopharmaceutical, the U.S.-based manufacturer of the experimental drug, says it will take time to replenish its exhausted stocks of ZMapp and scientists say it is too early to confirm the value of the medication that has been tested on laboratory animals but not previously on humans.
The disease has reaped a grim toll on healthcare workers, who generally work long hours in very tough conditions at low-tech facilities and often lack adequate protective gear.
Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Gareth Jones