Two Trialed Drugs Show Promise in Potentially Preventing and Treating Ebola
The NIAID, part of the NIH, and the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in the DRC jointly sponsored the trial. These advances will help save thousands of lives.
The study dubbed Pamoja Tulinde Maisha (PALM [together save lives]) is a randomized, controlled trial of four investigational agents (ZMapp, remdesivir, mAb114 and REGN-EB3) for the treatment of patients with Ebola.
"A long-running outbreak like this takes its awful toll on the affected communities, and it's a sign of just how challenging it has been to control this epidemic that there have been sufficient number of patients treated for telling us more about these four drugs' efficacy", said director of the Wellcome Trust, Dr. Jeremy Farrar.
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.
In this group, mortality dropped to 29 per cent with REGN-EB3 and with mAb114 it fell to 34 per cent compared to a rate of between 60 and 67 per cent in the general population when the disease is not treated by a drug.
In comparison, two-thirds of the patients who got Remdesivir and almost three-quarters on ZMapp survived.
In June this year, Tanzanian Minister for Health Ummy Mwalimu warned that Tanzania was at high risk of an outbreak of Ebola after the virus killed at least two people in neighboring Uganda.
REGN-EB3 and mAb114 "are the first drugs that, in a scientifically sound study, have clearly shown a significant diminution in mortality for people with Ebola virus disease", Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.
Efforts to control it have been hampered by militia violence, while emergency responders have struggled to win the co-operation 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.
"The success is clear, but there is also a tragedy linked to this success, and the tragedy is that not enough people are being treated", said Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program. "The world needs an Ebola vaccine, especially one that can give a strong and longer-lasting immunity", Pontiano Kaleebu, a Ugandan researcher leading the trial, told The New Humanitarian.
"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", he said. The study aims to enrol a total of 725.
Among the patients admitted with low levels of the Ebola virus detected in their blood, researchers found 94% on REGN-EB3 and 89% on mAb114 survived. The treatments were developed using antibodies harvested from people who survived an Ebola infection.