According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average fatality rate from Ebola is 50 percent, but it can vary on an outbreak-by-outbreak basis. They have succeeded in developing two experimental treatments known as REGN-EB3 and mAb-114 that were found to be 90% effective.
"One thing that won't change is that those two therapies are better than the other two - that's for sure", Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told Science News.
Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who has trained Ebola health workers in Uganda, says it's too soon to say exactly what impact those drugs will have on outbreak response, but agrees that the trial's promising results-and very existence-are an important step forward.
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 final analysis of the data, which are still being collected for REGN-EB3 and mAb114, is expected in the fall of this year, after which the findings will be published, according to a press release by the National Institutes of Health.
The latest trial demonstrates "you can dramatically diminish the mortality", said Fauci, "but getting rid of the Ebola virus becomes a (case of) prevention, of how you could prevent this from spreading".
The World Health Organization designated it a "public health emergency of worldwide concern" last month. The drugs are proving to be effective because they appear to block a protein critical to the Ebola virus. Now, all Ebola treatment units will use the two monoclonal antibody drugs.
Since these drugs were the first to have given positive results, it would now be used to treat all the patients with Ebola virus.
The study showed that REGN-EB3 and mAb114 had mortality rates of 29% and 34%.
"The success is clear, but there is also a tragedy linked to this success, and the tragedy is that not enough people are being treated", said Michael J. Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.
Some 681 patients at four separate treatment centres in Congo have already been enrolled in the Congo treatment clinical trial, Fauci said.
Theirs are among more than 2,800 confirmed cases of the disease that has claimed almost 1,900 lives since the outbreak began a year ago in the eastern DRC.