Breakthrough Ebola trial drug increases survival rates by up to 90%

August 15, 2019

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR-Congo), which has already killed over 1,800 people, may soon be safely treatable and preventable, thanks to two new drugs. Ebola’s symptoms start with a viral fever, a sore throat, intense weakness, and muscle pain. It gradually progresses to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal/external bleeding. Most of those infected die from dehydration and multiple organ failure. However, a trial co-sponsored by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) showed that some 90% of infected patients can survive the deadly disease if treated early with the effective drugs.

The drugs, named REGN-EB3 and mAb114, work by attacking the Ebola virus with antibodies and neutralising its impact on human cells.REGN-EB3 comes from antibodies from within infected mice, whilemAb114 was developed from the harvested antibodies of Ebola survivors.

The 2018 trial saw four experimental drugs tested on about 700 Ebola patients. While the mortality rates were 29% for REGN-EB3 and 34% for mAb114 during this time, it was significantly lesser than the other two drugs which recorded 49% and 53% of deaths respectively.The survival rate among patients with low levels of the virus in their blood was as high as 94% when they were given REGN-EB3, and 89% when on mAb114.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, said these are the first to show a diminution in mortality for patients, and so, is “very good news” in the fight against Ebola.

As health authorities can now “stress that more than 90% of people survive” if they are treated early, Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, said the life-saving treatments would certainly make Ebola a “preventable and treatable” disease.

At the moment, the spread of the disease in DR-Congo is facilitated by a debilitating fear and widespread mistrust of health workers. The effectiveness of the drugs, made by US-based pharmaceutical firms, is hoped to ease discomfort among patients about seeking care early and agree to vaccination. Preventive vaccines developed to protect against Ebola, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) have proven highly effective and could stop Ebola outbreaks “from turning into major national and regional epidemics.”

In July, the WHO sounded the international alarm on the Ebola crisis. While previous attempts to contain the disease proved difficult, the new drugs are expected to bring about vast changes to the people of DR-Congo.


Category: Features, Pharmaceuticals

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