Scientists: Ebola Virus Drug Trials A Major Success

Source: The Guardian.com

Ebola can no longer be called an incurable disease, scientists have said, after a trial of four medications used against the major outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (US NIAID) co-sponsored the trial.

Anthony Fauci, the director of US NIAID, said the overall mortality rate of those given Remdesivir in the trial was 53%, while that of the drug ZMapp was 49%. But a monoclonal antibody drug made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics had a mortality rate of 34%, while a monoclonal antibody made by Regeneron had the lowest overall death rate, at 29%.

The results with patients who sought medical treatment right after they became sick were even more impressive: the mortality rates of the Ridgeback antibody was 11%, while Regeneron’s was just 6%.

One of the biggest obstacles in fighting the year-long DRC outbreak, the second biggest ever and now with 2,800 cases, has been the reluctance of those who fall sick to seek treatment. On average, people who fall ill are not turning up at a treatment center until after four days, said Dr. Michael Ryan from the World Health Organization. This reduces their chances of survival and makes it likely that the virus, spread through bodily fluids, will be transmitted to their families.

It has not helped that the chances of survival have been low: up to 70% of those infected in the DRC have died. Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in the DRC, which has overseen the trial, said many people saw family members go into an Ebola treatment center and come out dead. He adds:

“Now that 90% of their patients can go into the treatment center and come out completely cured, they will start believing it and building trust in the population and community.”

The next phase of the trial should reveal more about which of the two works best in certain settings. According to Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the director of Wellcome and the co-chair of the WHO Ebola Therapeutics Group, “The more we learn about these two treatments, and how they can complement the public health response, including contact tracing and vaccination, the closer we can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable.

“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.”

Both monoclonal antibodies will now be used in every treatment center in DRC.

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