Ebola drugs show 90% survival rate in breakthrough trial

Henrietta Brewer
August 13, 2019

A health worker fills a syringe with Ebola vaccine before injecting it to a patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, August 5, 2019.

More than 90% of infected people can survive if treated early with the most effective drugs, the research showed.

Two of four experimental Ebola drugs being tested in Congo seem to be saving lives, global health authorities announced Monday.

A clinical trial evaluating 4 experimental therapeutics for Ebola virus disease has been halted after an independent data and safety monitoring board determined 2 of the therapies were linked with better rates of survival.

The two antibody-based treatments are known as REGN-EB3 and mAb-114 and are administered once intravenously as soon as possible after infection.

Anthony Fauci, NIAID's director, also said the results were "very good news" for the fight against Ebola.

REGN-EB3 and mAb114 were developed utilizing antibodies harvested from survivors of Ebola, which has killed more than 1,800 individuals in DR Congo in the past year. The other two drugs being tested - ZMapp and remdesivir - had rates of 49% and 53% respectively.

What were the results of the trial?

The trial, conducted by a global research group coordinated by the World Health Group (WHO), started past year.

The second is a monoclonal antibody named mAB114 made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which had a mortality rate of 34%.

The agency said of the patients who were brought into treatment centres with low levels of virus detected in their blood, 94% who got REGN-EB3 and 89% on mAb114 survived.

"What this means is that we do now have what look like (two) treatments for a disease for which not long ago we really had no approach at all".

What impact could the drugs have?

The findings, Mr. Farrar, stated, indicate scientists are getting closer to turning Ebola right into a "preventable and treatable" disease.

"We won't ever get rid of Ebola but we should be able to stop these outbreaks from turning into major national and regional epidemics".

Given the emergency, the World Health Organization said it has vaccinated more than 1,300 people who potentially came into contact with the Ebola virus in the Congolese city of Goma, helping contain what many feared would be a rapid spread of the virus.

How serious is the DR Congo outbreak?

The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.

The vaccine has already been tested on more than 6,000 people in Europe, the United States, and Africa, and has proved safe, though demonstration of its efficacy in humans is still lacking as it has not been used in the context of an outbreak.

Efforts to control it have been hampered by militia violence, while emergency responders have struggled to win the co-operation of affected communities, many of which are deeply distrustful of the government and a roll-out of medical strategies - supervised by security forces - that have clashed with local customs.

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