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Congo approves four more experimental Ebola treatments as cases rise

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has approved four more experimental treatments against the deadly Ebola virus, the health ministry said, as it races to contain an outbreak in its violence-torn east.

Oly Ilunga
Oly Ilunga, the Congolese Minister of Health

Health authorities on Aug. 11, 2018 started administering the U.S.-developed mAb114 treatment to Ebola patients, the first time such a treatment had been used against an active outbreak.

The DRC health ministry said in a daily bulletin that the 10 patients who received mAb114 since Aug. 11 have experienced a “positive evolution”, but the outbreak has continued to grow.

The four additional treatments approved by Congo’s ethics committee are Remdesivir, made by Israel’s Gilead Sciences; ZMapp, an intravenous treatment made by San Diego’s Mapp Pharmaceutical; Japanese drug Favipiravir; and one referred to as “Regn3450 – 3471 – 3479”.

Remdesivir was administered to its first patient in the town of Beni on Tuesday, who is doing well,
the ministry said in its bulletin.

The ministry said six new cases and four new deaths have been confirmed from the haemmorhagic fever, which causes vomiting and severe diarrhea.

That brings the total number of deaths to 59 and confirmed cases to 75 since July.

Congo, whose heavily forested interior makes its a natural home for Ebola, is at the forefront of a global campaign to combat the virus, which killed more than 11,000 people when it swept through West Africa from 2013 to 2016.

The Central African country has experienced ten Ebola outbreaks since the virus was discovered in northern Congo in 1976, more than twice as many as any other country and 33 people died in a flare-up in the northwest that ended last month.

In addition, a vaccine manufactured by Merck, which proved effective against the earlier outbreak in
northwestern Congo, has been administered to 1,693 health workers and contacts of Ebola patients.

Insecurity in Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda has continued to complicate the response, with some contacts of Ebola patients located in so-called “red-zones”, which are off limits to emergency responders due to militia activity.

Instead, local health workers in those areas are monitoring the contacts and no Ebola cases have
yet been confirmed there.

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