Africa: Zim Can Produce Ebola Drug

Zimbabwe has the potential to produce an Ebola drug if it supports and invests more in bio-pharmaceutical research on tobacco plants, a local biotechnology researcher says. Dr Ian Robertson, a Harare-based biotechnology expert, told participants at a one-day workshop on biotechnology awareness that Zimbabwe had the capacity to produce an Ebola drug given the expertise it has in biotechnology and in tobacco growing.

“Major global pharmaceutical companies are using tobacco plants to produce antibodies needed to fight diseases such as Ebola,” he said.

“They are producing a drug called ZMapp which they are using on an experimental basis to treat Ebola.

“We have to research on it and try it. We can do it. We are a major tobacco growing country. We can do something about it.”

Researchers say tobacco plants contain one of the most promising hopes for developing an effective treatment for the Ebola virus which has gripped West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, affecting 13 567 people and killing over 5000, according to latest World Health Organisation statistics.

At present, there is no cure for Ebola, although several companies in the US are working on drug candidates to help fight the Ebola virus.

At present health experts give patients only fluids, blood transfusions and antibiotics in the hope their immune systems can fight off Ebola’s onslaught.

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Article by Sifelani Tsiko

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