Two Experimental Drugs Found Effective Against Ebola Virus

A girl receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse in Goma

Democratic Republic of Congo, a Central African nation, has the largest outbreak of Ebola virus disease until now and as a counter measure four drugs were tested on patients in the country.

The drugs improved survival rates from the disease more than two other treatments being tested - ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences.

In a world where clinical trials are often stopped due to patient deaths, safety issues or because the drug is likely to fail, an Ebola study in central Africa is ending early for the opposite reason.

The results were more striking for patients with a low viral load in their blood: more than 90 percent survived while taking either REGN-EB3 or mAb114, provided they got treatment early.

The latest outbreak in DR Congo began a year ago with the World Health Organisation saying the Ebola crisis is a "public health emergency of global concern".

He added that scientists are getting close to turning Ebola into a "preventable and treatable" disease.

Started in November 2018, the trial was coordinated by the World Health Organization and co-sponsored by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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South Sudan announced that it would scale up its monitoring of the Ebola virus after an outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever was reported in recent months in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). "We still see too many people not being found in time for benefiting from these therapies, people residing away from treatment centers", said Mike Ryan, Assistant Director General for Emergencies at WHO.

Of the patients given the two more effective drugs, 29% on REGN-EB3 and 34% on mAb114 died, NIAID said.

The NIH, Democratic Republic of Congo health authorities and the World Health Organization hailed the 'extraordinary team of individuals who have worked under extremely hard conditions to carry out this study, ' as well as the patients and their families.

They had been among a group of four diagnosed in Goma, the largest city affected by the outbreak that has so far killed at least 1,800 people. All Ebola treatment units will now use the two monoclonal antibody drugs. The results of the first 500 patients are now known and clearly show which drugs work best. Monday, they said two had worked remarkably well for 500 patients who'd received them.

The trial was the first-ever multi-drug randomized trial for Ebola and was pushed ahead despite the highly complex and challenging circumstances, said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome and co-chair of the WHO Ebola therapeutics group.

In the experiment, researchers compared ZMapp to three other drugs, which included Regeneron's compound, the NIH's called mAb114 and an antiviral drug named remdesivir.

It is hoped that the effectiveness of the drugs, made by US-based pharmaceutical firms, will make patients feel "more comfortable about seeking care early", said Dr Fauci.

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