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Microscopic image of Ebola virus
The Ebola virus has been seen as a "near certain killer," carrying a mortality rate of over 80%Image: IMAGE POINT FR/NIH/NIAID/BSIP/picture alliance
HealthGlobal issues

WHO recommends new Ebola treatments

August 19, 2022

The World Health Organization has recommended the use of two drugs against the Ebola virus, which it says have "revolutionized" the treatment of what had previously been thought of as a "near-certain killer."


The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said two existing treatments significantly reduced deaths from the Ebola virus, which has killed thousands in Africa and elsewhere.

The organization recommended that the treatments be given to people of all ages. It said that this had "revolutionized" the treatment of the often-fatal disease.

What does the WHO recommend for Ebola treatment?

The WHO has recommended the use of two monoclonal antibodies, Ebanga (mAb114) and Inmazeb (REGN-EB3).

Janet Diaz, head of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme's clinical management unit, said studies showed that the two treatments significantly reduced mortality.

She said the use of the new drugs could save 230-400 lives for every 1,000 infections, depending on the standard of care.

The organization said the two treatments were appropriate for older people, pregnant and breastfeeding people, children and newborns.

"Patients should receive recommended neutralizing monoclonal antibodies as soon as possible after laboratory confirmation of diagnosis," the UN health agency said in a statement.

The drugs were trialed following an outbreak of the disease in 2018-2020 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to WHO figures, there were more than 3,300 confirmed cases of Ebola registered in the epidemic, of whom almost 2,300 succumbed to the disease.

The WHO has recommended against using other therapeutics that have been tested for Ebola treatment, such as the monoclonal antibody ZMapp and antiviral drug remdesivir.

Access to treatments challenging

The WHO warned that access to the treatments was still "challenging, especially in resource-poor areas."

"WHO is ready to support countries, manufacturers and partners to improve access to these treatments, and to support national and global efforts to increase affordability," it said.

Diaz said that, although the drugs were currently available in Congo, more needed to be done to increase their affordability. "Pathways to access is a priority to work on right now," she said.

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever that was identified in central Africa in 1976. Fatality rates from the disease can be as high as 80% to 90%.

"Ebola virus disease used to be perceived as a near-certain killer. However, that is no longer the case," Robert Fowler, co-chair of the WHO's guideline development group, said. He said effective use of the treatments now led to recovery in the "vast majority" of cases depending on the standard of care where patients receive treatment. 

sdi/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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