Spanish priest to be given pioneering Ebola drug

The infected priest is placed in an ambulance at Madrid airport. Picture: AP
The infected priest is placed in an ambulance at Madrid airport. Picture: AP
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THE FIRST person in Europe to be treated for Ebola is to be given an experimental drug used to treat the deadly virus.

Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, 75, remains in isolation in a hospital in Madrid after being flown back from Liberia in West Africa on Thursday.

Doctors were yesterday given the go-ahead to treat him with ZMapp, which has already been administered to two American health workers returned to the States after falling ill with the disease.

Supplies of the drug were flown from Geneva in Switzerland to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital where Mr Pajares is being cared for round-the-clock.

He remained in a stable condition yesterday and was not bleeding which is a sign the virus is at an advanced stage.

Friend Brother Emilio said: “We have scant news and are just waiting. We’ll go to see him when they say we can but at the moment what interests us is that he remains stable.”

The current Ebola epidemic has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa. Last week the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak an “international emergency” – and warned it is likely to spread further.

US president Barack Obama has said it is too soon to send the ZMapp drug to West Africa.

It is said to be unclear if the drug is directly responsible for the improvement in the condition of the US aid workers stricken by the virus. ZMapp, a drug made by a California-based company from antibodies, has never undergone human trials.

Speaking last week at a press conference, Mr Obama said: “I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful.”

A request from Nigeria’s health centre to US health authorities last week for access to ZMapp was turned down on the basis there were virtually no doses available.

The Spanish agency for medicines and health products, which answers to the country’s ministry of health, said it had authorised the importation of the drug to treat Mr Pajares as an “exceptional measure.”

Meanwhile, the charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has said that Liberia’s medical services have been completely overwhelmed by the Ebola outbreak.

The MSF co-ordinator in Liberia said official figures were “under-representing the reality”, and that the health system was “falling apart”.

Lindis Hurum, said: “Our capacity is stretched beyond anything that we ever done before in regards to Ebola response.”

She said five of the biggest hospitals in the capital Monrovia had closed for more than a week.