The world has finally reached a turning point in the fight against Ebola, experts say. This week, news came that two new drugs have raised the survival rate of newly infected to between 89 and 94 percent – the Ebola virus typically kills about 50 percent of those infected. The experimental vaccine is thought to be effective because the results of the study on Ebola medicines suggest that the treatment helps people survive.
Ebola, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare but deadly disease. Previous epidemics in West Africa between 2014 and 2016 have killed more than 11,300 people, and the current outbreak already claims that the lives of 1,800 people have died from nearly 2,800 people who have been diagnosed. In July, the epidemic was finally announced by the World Health Organization for Emergency Public Health.
The drug test was conducted amid the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which may be one of the most remarkable aspects of the process. In fact, the conflict has been a major challenge in the recent drug war in the impoverished region, torn apart by the war. Moreover, local people in the region are distrustful of the government and outsiders and therefore not always responsive. And providing much-needed R&D funding – which can cost billions – remains a difficult task.
However, large-scale epidemics may provide the ammunition needed to take extreme measures such as the administration of experimental drugs – as in the case – that have not yet undergone rigorous clinical trials. The hasty drug trial began in November 2018 in response to the outbreak and in an effort to quickly quell the epidemic. This, in part, makes experiments like this so unique, as drug development can often take a decade to reach patients at last. And many lost in the so-called "valley of death" long before that. Especially without incentives such as profit.
Local and international authorities involved in the trial administered free of charge four medicines to 700 patients based on "compassionate use" – and from four different drugs, two showed promise, REGN-EB3 and mAb114. The trial was supported by co-financing from many countries as well as humanitarian organizations. But the question remains who will continue to pay it forward?
Nevertheless, the success of the Ebola outbreak could create a change in the way the world responds to the epidemic of infectious diseases in the future – although some factors have helped in the case of Ebola, such as the high profile of the disease worldwide and the enormous stimulus to find a cure. And it is also important to note that although the drugs are successful in some cases, they will not completely stop Ebola in its wake.
"I think the news today is fantastic. He gives us a tool in our toolbox against Ebola. But that alone does not stop Ebola, ”Dr. Mike Ryan told World Health Organization this week.
"What will stop Ebola is… good monitoring, good prevention and control of infections, good community engagement, excellent vaccination, and the use of these therapists in the most effective way possible, in safe and humane Ebola hospitals. This is not one answer. There are many things. "