Ebola can no longer be called an incurable disease, scientists have said, after two of four drugs being trialled in the major outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were found to have significantly reduced the death rate.
ZMapp, used during the massive Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, has been dropped along with Remdesivir after two monoclonal antibodies, which block the virus, had substantially more effect, said the World Health Organization and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which were co-sponsors of the trial.
The trial in the DRC, which started in November, has now been stopped. All Ebola treatment units will now use the two monoclonal antibody drugs.
“From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” said Prof Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in DRC, which has overseen the trial.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the US NIAID, said the overall mortality of those given ZMapp in the trial in four centres was 49% while that of Remdesivir was 53%. A monoclonal antibody drug made by Regeneron had the lowest overall death rate, at 29%, while the monoclonal antibody 114 made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics had a mortality rate of 34%.
But the results in people who arrived at a treatment centre soon after they became sick, rather than staying at home, were even more impressive – with death rates of 24% on ZMapp, 33% with Remdesivir, 11% with 114 and just 6% with Regeneron’s drug.