There may be light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the devastating Ebola outbreaks that have taken hold in Central Africa this year.
New experimental treatments seem to be working for patients in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the New York Times reported. The new treatment, coupled with the new vaccine deployed earlier this year, could mean big things in the fight against Ebola.
The results pertaining to the treatments, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, are preliminary, but they appear to be saving lives.
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The death rate of Ebola patients before the approved treatments had been about 68% in the DRC.
But for patients in the DRC given one or more of the four treatments, the death rate dropped to 43%, according to Dr. William A. Fischer II, an emergency care specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Fischer noted that the death rate would have been 32% if the trial did not take into account the Ebola patients who were already nearing death when they arrived for treatment.
“I do think the tide is changing,” Fischer said while presenting his data at the medical conference, according to the Times. “I do think we’re in a new world.”
The Ministry of Health of the DRC declared this Ebola outbreak in North Kivu Province on Aug. 1. There have been 244 confirmed and 35 more probable cases of Ebola in the DRC. Of those, there have been 179 deaths linked to the deadly disease (144 confirmed, 35 probable).
Health officials approved the experimental treatments in August, according to the New York Times.
There are four approved treatments: remdesivir, mAb114, REGN-EB3, and ZMapp. In early animal tests, all of these treatments worked 90% to 100% of the time in rhesus monkeys infected with Ebola (up to five days after the infection), the New York Times reported.
This outbreak in North Kivu is the second outbreak in the DRC this year.
The first outbreak in Equateur Province, which was announced in May and declared over in late July, killed 29 people, but was contained in large part thanks to a quick response and the new vaccine.
Fischer said that health officials in the Congo hope that patients will be quicker to visit medical clinics as information spreads about the effectiveness of the treatments, according to the New York Times.
The current outbreak in North Kivu is especially concerning as conflict-ridden regions are much harder to reach with vaccines, so effective treatment could be key in containing the disease.