Scientists and doctors in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been running a clinical trial of new drugs to try to combat a year-long Ebola outbreak.
An official announcement was made this week: two of the experimental treatments appear to dramatically boost survival rates. “From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in the DRC. Patients in four treatment centers were randomly assigned to receive an antiviral drug called remdesivir or one of three drugs that use monoclonal antibodies. The monoclonal antibody cocktail produced by a company called Regeneron Pharmaceuticals had the biggest impact on lowering death rates, down to 29 percent, while NIAID’s monoclonal antibody, called mAb114, had a mortality rate of 34 percent. Death rates dropped to 11 to 6 percent for patients who received treatments soon after becoming sick. More than 90% of infected people can survive if treated early with the most effective drugs, the research showed.
A new trial will now start, directly comparing Regeneron to mAb114, which is being produced by a Florida-based company called Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. “The success is clear. But there’s also a tragedy linked to the success. The tragedy is that not enough people are being treated. We are still seeing too many people staying away from treatment centers, people not being found in time to benefit from these therapies,” WHO’s director of health emergencies, Mike Ryan.