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Ebola cure? Scientists discover two highly effective drugs

13 August 2019

Two monoclonal antibody drugs will be used to treat Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following a successful nine-month trial.

Since then, four experimental drugs have been tested on almost 700 patients, with the preliminary results from the first 499 now known.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of Congo's Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in DRC, who co-led the trial, said the results meant that "from now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable".

Medical experts at the frontline of the fight against this disease that's claimed more than 11,000 lives worldwide say ebola can no longer be called an incurable disease.

The vital next step, however, is to overcome the suspicion of health workers in Ebola affected regions.

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

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It was the first-ever multi-drug trial for an Ebola treatment.

Four combination drugs took part in the trial.

The two monoclonal antibodies outperformed Mapp's ZMapp and Gilead's remdesivir in the trial, with REGN-EB3 eliciting the lowest overall death rate - at 29% - while mAb114 achieved a mortality rate of 34%. Patients receive them once, intravenously, and "ideally, as soon as possible" after infection, Fauci said.

The decision to drop two of the trial drugs was based on data from nearly 500 patients, he said, which showed that those who got REGN-EB3 or mAb114 "had a greater chance of survival compared to those participants in the other two arms". Monday, they said two had worked remarkably well for 500 patients who'd received them. The average mortality rate for Ebola has been about 50 percent, according to the WHO.

Patients who were receiving two other drugs that are being discontinued, Zmapp and remdesivir, will now have the option at the discretion of their treating physician to receive the treatments that have been shown to work. The use of other two Ebola drugs Remdesivir and ZMapp will be discontinued due to their lower effectiveness.

"This underscores the importance of doing randomised, controlled trials. You can get ethically sound and scientifically sound information rapidly", Fauci said.

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The Washington Post reports that the drugs have been tested in a almost nine-month clinical trial and have performed so well that health professionals will now administer them to every patient in Congo.

The current Ebola outbreak is now considered the second largest in history, killing at least 1,800 people. Violence continues to mar the efforts of vaccination providers trying to contain the spread of Ebola, as political unrest, armed conflict, and social upheaval spreads across eastern Congo.

Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's emergencies programme, said the trial's positive findings were encouraging but would not be enough on their own to bring the epidemic to an end.

He said: 'Thanks to this trial, we are starting to understand which treatments to offer to patients in this and future outbreaks'.

"This is our moral responsibility and a lifelong burden on our shoulders that we are ready to assume with pride", he said.

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Ebola cure? Scientists discover two highly effective drugs