The battle against Ebola seems to be getting close to its end with humans claiming victory. Two experimental drugs have become so effective that the virus is no longer considered a “without cure” disease. The experimental drugs, REGN-EB3 and mAb-114, are monoclonal antibodies that are infused intravenously into the blood.
REGN-EB3 is produced by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, New York. The mAb-114 was developed by the National Institute of Health, and the production license was issued to Ridgeback Biotherapeutics of Miami. They have both outperformed other 4 antibodies that were put on trial in November last year, and trumped the viral epidemic to the degree of hope.
According to Newyork Times, Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins normally made by the immune system that clamp onto the outer shells of viral particles, preventing it from entering cells. Scientists concocted the big Y shaped proteins to recognize the specific shapes of invading bacteria and viruses and then recruit the immune cells to attack those pathogens.
The experimental trial involving 499 patients proved more effective than the others previously used starting in 2014, when the disease swept through West Africa. The mortality rate for REGN-EB3 was 29% and mAb-114 was 34%. That leaves a high contrast gap between them and the previous two drugs – Zmapp which had a mortality rate of 49%, and Remdesivir which had 53%.
The new drugs even proved more effective on patients whose cases were treated early. There was a significant drop in mortality rate for the two drugs. For REGN-EB3, it was 6% and for mAb-114, it was 11%. A record that has triggered unprecedented excitement in the medical research world. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony S Fauci, who is also one of the researchers leading the trial said:
“It means we do have now what looks like treatments for a disease which, not too long ago, we really had no therapeutic approach at all.”
Hence, there is resonating difference between now and then that predicts total cure of the disease in the near future.
The high percentage of success recorded in this trial plays another vital role in curbing the future outbreak ebola. Some Congolese villages have not had it cordial with health officials, especially when they are terrified by their own vulnerability. There is rumor that ebola does not exist, that what is happening is more like a biological weapon being tested on African soil. This has led to some concealing their infected family members and attacking medical teams.
They don’t know what to believe, and they don’t know who to trust. A problem that could only be solved by a high rate of success in combating the virus. If about 90% of recorded cases get cured, the people will know what to believe and who to trust.
On August 13 2019, two people cured using the experimental drugs were discharged from a treatment center in Goma, DRC, and were allowed to go back to their families. And it’s a testimony.
The director general of Congo’s National Institute for Biomedical Research (NIBR), Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who has dedicated his entire adult life fighting ebola, and led the research team that discovered the cure couldn’t hold back his excitement. He said:
“I spent four decades of my life thinking how to treat patients with ebola virus. So this is the achievement of my life.
“From now on, we will no longer say that ebola is incurable.”
The win seems so personal to him because it will change the attitude of his people toward health workers and the virus itself.
“These advances will help save thousands of lives.
“Now we can say that 90% can come out of treatment cured, they will start believing it and developing trust.” He added
Dr. Muyembe was among the team that first discovered ebola in 1976, in DRC (then Zaire). He has since then dedicated his life to finding a cure to the virus. The 77 years old feels fulfilled that his efforts have paid off after so many years, and it has also ignited the hope that the future can reckon with.
The makers of the REGN-EB3 and mAb-114 have promised that the drugs will be made available swiftly in enough quantities.