Scientists are a step closer to being able to cure the deadly Ebola haemorrhagic fever after two experimental drugs showed survival rates of as much as 90% in a clinical trial in Congo.
The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Anthony Fauci said in an interview with Reuters that the two new drugs have been able to 'diminish significantly' the number of deaths associated with Ebola.
"Certainly, it gives us some hope and optimism because prior to this, with the mortality between 65 and 70%, it was a dreadful disease," Fauci said.
"If you can bring it down to a much lower level that gives people a lot of hope and that gives them the confidence to go in to get care when they do get sick." Two experimental drugs - an antibody cocktail called REGN-EB3 developed by Regeneron and a monoclonal antibody called mAb114 - will now be offered to all patients infected with the viral disease in an ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The drugs showed "clearly better" results, according to U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in a trial of four potential treatments being conducted during the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, now entering its second year in DRC.
The drugs improved survival rates from the disease more than two other treatments being tested - ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, and Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences - and those products will be now dropped, said Anthony Fauci, one of the researchers co-leading the trial.
The agency said 49% of the patients on ZMapp and 53% on Remdesivir died in the study.
In comparison, 29% of the patients on REGN-EB3 and 34% on mAb114 died.
Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of Congo's Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in DRC, who co-led the trial, said the results meant that "from now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable." "These advances will help save thousands of lives," he told reporters.
The agency said that of the patients who were brought into treatment centres with low levels of virus detected in their blood, 94% who got REGN-EB3 and 89% on mAb114 survived.
In comparison, two-thirds of the patients who got Remdesivir and nearly three-quarters on ZMapp survived.
Ebola has been spreading in eastern Congo since August 2018 in an outbreak that has now killed at least 1,800 people.
Efforts to control it have been hampered by militia violence and some local resistance to outside help.
A vast Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2013 to 2016 became the world's largest ever when it spread through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and killed more than 11,300 people.
The Congo treatment trial, which began in November last year, is being carried out by an international research group coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO).