After an extensive research on the Ebola virus for over almost five decades, Dr Jean Jacque Muyembe and his team have announced a new cure that has proved effective in curing 90% of Ebola patients when symptoms are reported early. Speaking to Focus on Africa’s Esau Williams, Dr Muyembe defines the discovery as “the achievement of a lifetime”.
The General Director of the Democratic Republic of the Congo National Institute for Biomedical Research, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, has expressed delight at the announcement that two prototype drugs were effective in boosting chances of survival for patients of the deadly disease.
Muyembe was recently appointed by President Felix Tshisekedi to coordinate the year-long campaign against Ebola in the country.
He said that out of four confirmed cases in the eastern city of Goma, “two have been cured” after 11 days of treatment.
“This is a strong message for us that Ebola is curable. Today, the drugs are there,” he said.
On Monday, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said two drugs, out of four being tested among Ebola patients in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, had significantly boosted survival rates.
The two drugs, known by their lab names as REGN-EB3 and mAb114, belong to a class of treatments called monoclonal antibodies, which are designed to bind to the virus and neutralise it.
A total of 681 people had been recruited for the trial, which began in November.
The DR Congo’s Ebola outbreak is the tenth and was declared in August 2018. It is considered the largest ever outbreak, with cases surpassing 2,500. It is also the second-biggest Ebola epidemic ever recorded, behind the West Africa outbreak of 2014-2016.
WHO last month declared the DR Congo Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, calling for more measures to curb its spread.
🚨 🚨 🚨 Two of the four #Ebola drugs being tested in #DRC, have been shown to be more effective. They are the ones that will be used with future patients 👉 https://t.co/Jcq97oP55t pic.twitter.com/H96wcwG2CILoading...
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 12, 2019
Ebola has been spreading in eastern DRC since August 2018 in an outbreak that has so far killed at least 1,800 people. Efforts to control it have been hampered by militia violence, while emergency responders have struggled to win the cooperation of affected communities, many of which are deeply distrustful of the government and a roll-out of medical strategies – supervised by security forces – that have clashed with local customs.
A vast Ebola outbreak in West Africa became the world’s largest-ever when it spread through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2013 to 2016 and killed more than 11,300 people.
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.
“The news today is fantastic. It gives us a new tool in our toolbox against Ebola, but it will not in itself stop Ebola,” he told reporters.
Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity, also hailed the success of the trial’s findings, saying they would “undoubtedly save lives”.
“The more we learn about these two treatments … the closer we can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable,” he added in a statement.
“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.”
Some 681 patients at four separate treatment centres in the DRC have already been enrolled in the treatment clinical trial, Fauci said. The study aims to enrol a total of 725.
The decision to drop two of the trial drugs was based on data from almost 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”.