/Ebola breakthrough: two drugs could treat up to 90 per cent of cases

Ebola breakthrough: two drugs could treat up to 90 per cent of cases

An Ebola treatment centre in Butembo

An Ebola treatment centre in Butembo

Lisa Veran/MSF

Up to 90 per cent of Ebola cases may now be treatable thanks to two experimental drugs.

These drugs were so effective in a clinical trial in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that scientists stopped the trial early. Public health officials hope that these therapies will help control the country’s ongoing Ebola crisis that has so far led to the infection of around 2800 people, and the death of 1900.

The results come from a trial of almost 700 people in Ebola treatment centres that began last November. The trial found that, in recently infected people, only 6 per cent of those treated with a drug called REGN-EB3 died. The mortality rate of those given a drug called mAb114 was 11 per cent. Without treatment or vaccination, around two to three out of every four Ebola cases results in death.

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Both drugs are monoclonal antibodies, a class of immune system drugs that bind to and interfere with viruses and bacteria.

The drug trial was also testing two other drugs, which were found to have higher mortality rates. Now all new patients entering the trial will be given REGN-EB3 or mAb114, and those currently taking the other drugs will be able to choose to switch onto these too.

It is hoped that these drugs will turn the tide of the current Ebola crisis, which was declared a public health emergency last month.

They may also help tackle the distrust many feel towards healthcare workers. Ebola treatment centres have been seen as places where sick people are brought in but very few leave alive. As word of effective new drugs spread, infected people may feel encouraged to seek treatment earlier, which could further improve survival rates and lower rates of transmission.

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