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Ebola Has Finally Been Cured, Say Scientists

by : Emily Brown on : 13 Aug 2019 11:04
Ebola can no longer be called an incurable disease after drug trial successesEbola can no longer be called an incurable disease after drug trial successesPA Images

Scientists have said Ebola can no longer be labelled an incurable disease after success with drug trials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

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The DRC is struggling with a year-long outbreak of the disease; it is the second biggest ever with 2,800 cases.

Four drugs were being trialled in an attempt to combat the major outbreak and two of those were found to have dramatically increased survival rates. The trial took place in four treatment centers in towns in the country’s east, Beni, Katwa, Butembo and Mangina, where the outbreak is at its worst.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (US NIAID),  a co-sponsor of the trial, said the two monoclonal antibody drugs have had substantially more effect than the drug Zmapp, which was used during the massive Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and the drug Remdesivir.

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According to The Guardian, Anthony Fauci, the director of the US NIAID, explained the overall mortality of those who were given ZMapp in the trial was 49 per cent while the mortality of those given Remdesivir was 53 per cent.

1,400 People Die In World's Second Largest Ebola Outbreak In History1,400 People Die In World's Second Largest Ebola Outbreak In HistoryPA Images

In comparison, a monoclonal antibody drug made by Regeneron had the lowest overall death rate at 29 per cent, while monoclonal antibody 114 made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics had a mortality rate of 34 per cent.

The mortality rates were lower for people who arrived at treatment centres soon after becoming sick. Those given Zmapp had death rates of 24 per cent, Remdesivir had a rate of 33 per cent, Regeneron’s monoclonal anitbody had a mortality rate of 6 per cent and the drug made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics had 11 per cent.

The monoclonal antibody drugs work to block the virus and, according to a release from the US NIAID, after reviewing the results on August 9 the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) recommended the study be stopped and that all future patients be given the Regeneron and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics drugs. The two drugs are now being used by all Ebola treatment units.

Prof. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in DRC, which has overseen the trial, spoke of its success.

He said:

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From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable. These advances will help save thousands of lives.

Once of the biggest challenges the DRC has faced in battling Ebola is the reluctance of those who fall sick to seek treatment. Survival rates have been low as up to 70 per cent of those infected have died, The Guardian report.

1,400 People Die In World's Second Largest Ebola Outbreak In History1,400 People Die In World's Second Largest Ebola Outbreak In HistoryPA Images

Muyembe explained many people saw family members go into an Ebola treatment centre and come out dead but the new research will hopefully encourage more people to get help.

He continued:

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

Dr. Michael Ryan from the WHO said on average those who fall ill stay at home for four days before going to a treatment centre, however this reduces their chances of survival and makes it likely the Ebola virus will be transmitted to their families.

According to the WHO, the disease is spread through blood or body fluids, or objects which have been contaminated with body fluids from a sick person. It is thought fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts and that the virus was introduced into the human population through close contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals.

The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest since the virus was first discovered in 1976.

The second largest outbreak in history occurred in June in the DRC and Uganda, killing 1,400 people.

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Fauci paid tribute to those involved in the trial, saying non-governmental organisations including International Medical Corps and Médecins Sans Frontières ‘put their lives on the line every day to care for patients in extremely difficult conditions in the area where the outbreak is occurring’.

Medical staff have to wear protective suits when treating patients, who must be isolated.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of Wellcome and the co-chair of the WHO Ebola therapeutics group, said the next step is to learn more about the two successful drugs.

He explained:

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.

Though the four-drug trial has come to an end, an ‘extension phase’ of the study will now begin to directly compare the two monoclonal antibody drugs.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Health, Democratic Republic of the Congo, disease, ebola, medicine, World Health Organization

Credits

The Guardian and 2 others
  1. The Guardian

    Ebola now curable after trials of drugs in DRC, say scientists

  2. World Health Organization

    Ebola virus disease

  3. US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

    Independent Monitoring Board Recommends Early Termination of Ebola Therapeutics Trial in DRC Because of Favorable Results with Two of Four Candidates