Despite being one of the few people thought to have received the limited, experimental drug to try and treat the Ebola virus, a Spanish priest who contracted the disease while serving in West Africa died Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Carol III Hospital in Madrid said 75-year-old Miguel Pajares, who was evacuated from Liberia last week after testing positive for Ebola, died as a result of the symptoms caused by the virus. The virus, which can ultimately cause vomiting, diarrhea, kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding, has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, according to the World Health Organization.
This news came just a day after Spain’s Health Ministry announced that it had obtained a course of the U.S.-made experimental drug ZMapp over the weekend to treat the priest. The Madrid hospital on Tuesday would not confirm that the missionary priest who had been working in a Liberian hospital was treated with the drug, but his order said earlier he would be.
Pajares is one of only three Ebola patients thought to have received the drug. The others are two American missionaries who were evacuated from Liberia to Atlanta.
Though the hemorrhagic fever does not have a known vaccine or treatment, experimental drugs are quickly ramping up efforts to begin human trials and some exceptions are being made for people to receive doses of the scarce drugs that may or may not actually work. This practice though has raised significant debate over who should receive what is available of the possible treatments.
Medical ethicists with the WHO gathered Monday to debate the use of experimental drugs before they have been clinically tested and ultimately decided that it thinks it is ethical to use unproven Ebola drugs and vaccines in the outbreak in West Africa provided the right conditions are met.
WHO did not, however, address the question of who should get the limited drugs.
Some Africans felt that the U.S.-based company was withholding the drug from those in countries severely impacted by the outbreak. But the Liberian government said Monday that it receive some doses of the experimental Ebola drug to treat doctors. It was unclear how much of ZMapp would be sent, but Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. said in a statement Monday that its already limited supply had been exhausted.
Watch this video about the ethical issues the experimental drug has raised:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.