The first-ever multi-drug randomised trial for Ebola has proven extremely successful. Researchers treating patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have identified two monoclonal antibodies that block the Ebola virus and radically lower mortality. The new findings suggest that Ebola is no longer an incurable disease.
“Now we can say that 90 percent can come out of treatment cured,” one scientist said in a statement.
Ebola is a devastating disease, characterized by a painful hemorrhagic fever, which interferes with the endothelial cells lining the interior surface of blood vessels and with coagulation. As the blood vessel walls become damaged and destroyed, the platelets are unable to coagulate, and patients succumb to hypovolemic shock.
When the Ebola virus infects a human host, it it can kill up to 90% of the time, depending on available treatment. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined.
To contain the epidemic, doctors in Sierra Leone, Libera, and Guinea have been using biopharmaceutical drugs like ZMapp and Remdesivir. However, these drugs have now been droppped in favor of two monoclonal antibodies, known as REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, which a recent clinical trial showed to be far more effective.
The DRC trial, which started in November, found that a monoclonal antibody drug made by Regeneron has a mortality rate of only 29% while another monoclonal antibody made by Ridgeback Biotherapetics had a mortality rate of 34%. Meanwhile, Zmapp and Remdesivir had a mortality rate of 49% and 53% respectively.
The odds of suriviving Ebola, however, are much higher if a patient arrives early at a clinic. The trial found that the death rate for those seeking treatment soon after they became sick was only 11% with the Ridgeback antibody and just 6% with Regeneron’s drug.
According to the World Health Organization, people who fall ill with Ebola wait on average four days before they seek treatment. Many are reluctant to call for help because the chances of survival in clinics has been very low — until recently, up to 70% of those infected with Ebola in the DRC have died.
This may finally change with this groundbreaking trial now that Ebola is preventable and treatable.