Medical teams plan to start three clinical trials in the fight against the Ebola virus next month, administering the drugs at treatment centers run by Doctors Without Borders in West Africa. Two of the therapies involve antiviral drugs.
Two of the clinical trials will be conducted in Guinea and Liberia; the location for a third hasn’t been selected, according to Doctors Without Borders. The group says it hopes to quickly find another tool to use against an outbreak that has killed more than 5,000 people.
NPR’s Richard Harris reports:
“Scientists working with the World Health Organization have a shortlist of drugs that are ready for testing.
“They include favipiravir, which is used in Japan to treat the flu, and brincidofovir, which is an experimental antiviral drug being developed in the United States. There’s not much evidence that these drugs will work against Ebola, but they appear to be safe — and if they do work, there should be an adequate supply.
“Doctors also plan to test blood and blood plasma in a scientific setting to see whether these products can help sick people fight off the Ebola virus.”
In an interview with Morning Edition, Richard notes that two other drugs that have shown good results in tests on monkeys — ZMapp and Tekmira Ebola — will not be included in the trials, mainly because there isn’t enough of a supply.
“It wouldn’t be surprising to see these two drugs tested next year,” Richard says, “just not in this first round.”
He added that contrary to most clinical trials, all of the people in the planned studies will receive the experimental therapies.
“There will be no comparison group,” Richard says, noting that the approach could limit the information scientists get from the study.
News of the new tests comes as Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announces that she is lifting the state of emergency that she declared in early August.
“This is not because the fight against Ebola is over,” Sirleaf said.
Noting that many of the measures introduced as part of the fight against the virus will remain in place, she also applauded her country’s progress. As we reported last week, the World Health Organization has been seeing a decline in new Ebola cases in Liberia.
“I am pleased to announce that the curfew is extended to midnight, except those in proximity to hot spots,” Sirleaf said, adding that markets and schools closed by the emergency can now reopen.