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Ebola claims life of elderly Spanish priest

Carlos III Hospital in Madrid Spain
Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Although two American missionary healthcare workers are reportedly showing improvement after beginning treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta with the new experimental drug Zmapp, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, 75, was not as lucky. News from Madrid’s Carlos III hospital has reported that the clergyman died yesterday and his body has already been cremated. Pajares, who contracted the disease while working for the San Juan de Dios hospital order, a non-governmental Catholic group, helping to treat people with Ebola . He was the first European to become infected with the deadly disease, which has so-far killed more than 1,000 people in the West Africa nations of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Although there is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, it is hoped that ZMapp, made in tobacco plants by Mapp Pharmaceuticals will make the virus more treatable in humans by boosting their immune systems to fight it, after an earlier version was found to work in some monkeys infected.

"If there are drugs that can save lives, as animal testing has have suggested, shouldn't we use them to save human lives as well?" stated Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at WHO, during a press conference Tuesday. At the same time, she stressed the need for cautionary hope. "It is very important to not give false hope to anybody that Ebola can be treated now. This is absolutely not the case," she added.

In fact, Dr. Jesse Goodman of the Georgetown University Medical Center (and former chief scientist for the FDA) warned that “most experimental drugs that seemed promising in animal studies "don't turn out to benefit people.”

At present, only the Liberian government has appealed to President Obama for ZMapp to be sent to their country. In the meantime Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. of Canada is said to be in the process of developing a drug that targets genetic material of Ebola.

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