The Congo approves clinical trials for treatments with Ebola

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KINSHASA (Reuters) – The Congolese authorities have authorized clinical trials for four experimental Ebola treatments, which will allow researchers to collect valuable data on their effectiveness, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

PHOTO FILE: A Congolese health worker administers the ebola vaccine to a woman who has had contact with an Ebola patient in the village of Mangina, in the province of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 18 August 2018 REUTERS / Olivia Acland / File Photo

Healthcare professionals have already administered therapeutic treatments to more than 150 Ebola patients since August, in an attempt to contain the worst of the 10 outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1976.

But until now doctors have decided which treatment to use on a case-by-case basis. In the clinical trial, the choice of treatment will now be randomized.

The treatment will still be free, the ministry added in a statement.

"Valuable information on the effectiveness of treatments obtained during the clinical trial will allow the development of these treatments on a larger scale to save more lives," the ministry said.

The four treatments are mAb114, which was developed by the US government; ZMapp, an intravenous treatment performed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical; Remdesivir, produced by Gilead Sciences; and Regeneron's REGN-EB3.

Since last weekend, 151 patients have received one of four drugs. Of these, 76 had recovered, 44 were dead and 31 were still hospitalized – a mortality rate of 37%.

In contrast, among those who had not received treatment, the mortality rate was close to 80%.

The ministry said that data from the current epidemic would probably not be sufficient to draw definitive conclusions on the effectiveness of treatments and that evidence could continue during future outbreaks.

Despite the use of treatments and an experimental vaccine manufactured by Merck, the authorities fought to contain the epidemic because of the widespread violence of militias in eastern Congo and the resistance of the community to health workers.

At least 228 people are believed to have died and the World Health Organization declared last week that the epidemic is expected to last at least another six months.

Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Aaron Ross

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