Experimental drugs in Ebola outbreak

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As of September 11, around 29 people had been treated with new experimental Ebola drugs, 14 of whom have recovered, providing hope that the new drugs could quell the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In an interview with the Telegraph, the World Health Organization’s Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response said that in the original epicentres of the disease – around the towns of Mangina and Beni in the north east of the country – there were ‘promising signs’ that the disease was coming under control. However, he said that it cannot be said with certainty that the disease is under control until every contact has been traced.

According to the latest figures from WHO, there have ben 133 cases of the disease, including 91 deaths, which makes it the eighth largest Ebola outbreak in history.

The new experimental drugs fall into two categories: monoclonal antibodies such as Zmapp, and broad spectrum anti-viral drugs. They have been approved for emergency use by the Congolese authorities and a team of clinicians, including representatives from WHO, the DRC Ministry of Health and NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). A range of factors are taken into account before the drugs are administered.

François Esmyop, a doctor working in an MSF-run Ebola treatment centre in Mangina, said that doctors are operating under a monitored emergency use framework that allows the drugs to be used.