Two vaccines show significant promise in fight against Ebola virus
An unlicensed experimental vaccine produced by American pharmaceutical company Merck has so far inoculated more than 180,000 people in Congo, but there are concerns stocks may dwindle as the epidemic enters its second year and cases rise in the main eastern city of Goma.
As a result of their August 9 review, the DSMB recommended that the study be stopped and that all future patients be randomized to receive either REGN-EB3 or mAb114 in what is being considered an extension phase of the study.
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". Across all levels of infection, patients who received REGN-EB3 had a mortality rate of 29 per cent, while those treated with mAb-114 had a mortality rate of 34 per cent, the Post reports. These advances will help save thousands of lives.
These rates were far enough below those of the two other treatments - including ZMapp, first tested in the 2014 West Africa outbreak - that scientists made a decision to end the trial early.
REGN-EB3, mAb114 and Zmapp are monoclonal antibodies that bind to glycoprotein on the Ebola virus and neutralize its ability to infect other cells.
WHO is committed to continuing to work closely with the ministries of health of DRC and neighboring countries, and other global partners to ensure the outbreak response remains robust and well-coordinated.
The results showed that 499 study participants who got the REGN-EB3 or mAb114 had a greater chance of survival compared to those who got the other drugs.
The trial, which began in November 2018, tested the four drugs on roughly 700 Ebola patients.
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.
"Today's news has put us another step to saving more number of lives".
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. "It gives us a new tool in our toolbox against Ebola, but it will not in itself stop Ebola", he told reporters.
Fauci explained that the trial was created to include 725 people, but was halted by an independent board when it had enrolled 681 people because at that point, one of the drugs, REGN-EB3 by Regeneron, reached a critical threshold in success, while mAb114 was not far behind.
"REGN-EB3 is a 3-antibody cocktail designed with the goal of enhancing efficacy, reducing the development of viral sequences that lead to resistance, and increasing potential utility in future outbreaks as viruses continually evolve", Christos Kyratsous, PhD, vice president of research, infectious diseases and viral vector technologies at Regeneron, said in a press release.