The two American missionaries currently being treated for the deadly Ebola virus have a surprising company to thank for the experimental treatment they’ve been receiving–tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds.
The drug, never before used on humans, is made from tobacco plants and was manufactured by Kentucky Bioprocessing, a Reynolds American subsidiary, Bloomberg News reported. According to the most recent reports, the drug appears to be working. Both patients, Dr. Kent Brantly and aid worker Nancy Writebol, are showing signs of improvement. (RELATED: Ebola Outbreak Won’t Stop Obama’s Plans For Summit Of African Leaders)
Brantly and Writebol contracted the disease while working with Christian aid organizations Samaritan’s Purse and SIM in Liberia. Brantly had been in Liberia since last year as part of a medical fellowship, intending to practice general medicine. When the Ebola outbreak began in March of this year, he stepped up and became medical director of the Samaritan’s Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center, where he contracted the disease just a few months later. (RELATED: For First Time Ever, People Infected With Ebola Will Be In The U.S.)
“I have been able to see Kent every day, and he continues to improve,” his wife said Tuesday. “I am thankful for the professionalism and kindness of Dr. Ribner and his team at Emory University Hospital. I know that Kent is receiving the very best medical treatment available. I am also thrilled to see that Nancy arrived safely in Atlanta today. Our families are united in our faith in Jesus, and we will walk through this recovery time together. Please continue to pray for Kent, Nancy, and the people of Liberia.”
Writebol, a certified nursing assistant, had been a SIM personnel coordinator in Liberia since 2013. After the outbreak her duties included disinfecting those entering and leaving the hospital where she worked.
“A week ago we were thinking about making funeral arrangements for Nancy,” said her husband, who is still in Liberia, on Tuesday. “Now we have a real reason to be hopeful.”
The treatment is made from genetically modified tobacco plants that were grown in Owensboro, Ky.
Tobacco was once heralded as a panpharmacon and was used to treat diseases ranging from ulcers to syphilis–as late as 1793 doctors recommended men, women and children smoke strong cigars to ward off yellow fever. The “holy herb,” as it was sometimes called, didn’t fall out of favor with the medical profession until the 19th century, when studies isolating nicotine–and demonstrating its harmful effects–were first conducted.