DR Congo Ebola tsar delighted by drug breakthrough

Wednesday August 14 2019



Goma. DR Congo's pointman on Ebola voiced delight on Tuesday over the announcement that two prototype drugs have boosted chances of surviving the dreaded disease.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, newly appointed by President Felix Tshisekedi to coordinate the year-long campaign against Ebola, said that out of four confirmed cases of infection in the eastern city of Goma, "two have been cured" after 11 days of treatment.

Expressing his "great joy," Professor Muyembe said, "This is a strong message for us that Ebola is curable. Today, the drugs are there."

On Monday, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said two drugs, in a trial 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.


Data from 499 patients found that mortality among those who had been given REGN-EB3 fell to 29 percent compared to a typical death rate of 60-67 percent among those who had not been treated.

The mortality rate among mAb114 was 34 percent.

A total of 1,892 deaths have been recorded since the first case of Ebola in the most recent outbreak in eastern DRC was registered on August 1 2018.

The authorities' handling of the outbreak came under severe scrutiny last month when four cases emerged in Goma, a city of two million and a major transport hub.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern" -- a move designed to step up the global response.

Tshisekedi also appointed Muyembe, a veteran who was part of the team that investigated the very first known outbreak of Ebola in what was then Zaire, in 1976.

Doctors refused to say which drugs were used to treat the two Goma patients, pointing to the need to respect secrecy in medical trials.

Muyembe simply said, "We now have two drugs, mAb114 and REGN-EB3.

"These are the two drugs which we are going to use, because according to the results which we have obtained so far, these are the two drugs which are effective."

Two other drugs that were also being tested have been excluded from further use in the ongoing epidemic.

They also diminished mortality but did not approach similar thresholds of success.

The epidemic in DR Congo is the deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.