New treatment via tobacco could fight deadly Ebola virus


by Alex Schuman

Posted on August 5, 2014 at 11:21 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 5 at 11:38 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Dr. Ruth Carrico advises people on how to be safe when visiting another country and her patients suddenly have questions about the Ebola virus.

“We’ve had a lot of calls – people are saying ‘I’m concerned -- I’m either getting ready to go to Africa or I was thinking about going to Africa’,” Dr. Carrico said.

We now know if those people go against Dr. Carrico’s advice and somehow catch the disease, there will be a treatment called ZMapp. It’s a drug Kentucky is helping produce thanks to tobacco.

Tobacco is part of Kentucky’s culture and rarely gets associated with saving lives unless you talk with someone with Kentucky Bio Processing, who was bought out by January by Reynolds American.

The actual protein that treats Ebola comes from a company in San Diego. KBP takes that drug and places inside a tobacco plant. The tobacco then incubates and naturally multiplies the drug. It’s a cheaper way to produce lots of proteins quickly.

David Howard gave two reasons the ZMapp drug is not available to the public.

One – it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and two – there’s only a limited supply. That is at least, for now.

Dr. Carrico hopes her patients never need the serum but is still glad it is an option and glad it comes from Kentucky scientists.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to really highlight the capabilities that exist in this state,” she said.

A spokesman for KBP says they expect the FDA to approve the serum later in the year. He also says he expects the company will help combat the disease in other countries if they are asked.