Health workers in Democratic Republic of Congo have begun giving patients two experimental treatments to tackle the latest outbreak of Ebola as the number of cases climbs above 100, Reuters reports. The first dose of Gilead Science’s antiviral drug Remdesivir was administered on Tuesday (August 21), while the monoclonal antibody treatment mAb114 was deployed nearly two weeks ago.
“As of 20 August 2018, a total of 102 confirmed and probable [Ebola virus disease] cases, including 59 deaths, have been reported,” the World Health Organization (WHO) writes in a situation report published yesterday (August 22). Besides mAb114, “The Ethics Committee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has approved the use of four additional experimental therapeutics, namely: ZMapp, Remdesivir, Favipiravir, and Regn3450 - 3471 – 3479” to be used by Ebola treatment centers.
The latest outbreak was discovered at the beginning of August near Beni, a city in the eastern part of the country that is currently experiencing militia violence—an obstacle to the work of health authorities trying to contain the virus. “We don’t know if we are having all transmission chains identified,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said during a news briefing in Geneva, Reuters reported last week (August 17). “The worst-case scenario is that we have these security blindspots where the epidemic could take hold that we don’t know about.”
Health workers have been particularly affected by the latest outbreak, accounting for 12 of the 75 cases that have been confirmed so far. “There’s an extremely low level of knowledge and awareness about Ebola in the area,” epidemiologist Peter Salama, head of the WHO’s response to the outbreak, tells Science. “Early on, the health care workers took no precautions whatsoever, and unfortunately, we’re expecting more confirmed cases from that group.”
Meanwhile, vaccination teams are continuing to administer an experimental Ebola vaccine, Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV, to health workers and people in contact with Ebola patients. Reuters reports that 2,179 people have received the vaccine so far, and more doses are on their way to Beni now.