Scientists have discovered two medicines that might help tackle the Ebola virus outbreak in Central Africa. What is a clinical trial?

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Scientists have discovered two treatments against the life-threatening Ebola virus. The 2 medicines they developed have come out of medical experiments or trials conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two new medicines have proved to be effective and have increased the survival chances of patients infected with this deadly virus.

What is a medical trial? It is a series of experiments to test how effective medicine or vaccine in development for a disease is when given to people and patients. If the results show that the medicine is safe and can benefit the patients more than what is currently approved and available, then it may be approved by the authorities for the treatment of that disease.

What is the Ebola virus? A virus is an infection that enters your system makes copies of itself inside your cells, uses the nutrients in your cells, and then spreads to infect other people. Ebola is one such rare but life-threatening virus that can cause fever, headache, and muscle pain amongst under grave symptoms.

How did the Ebola virus first infect humans? The virus was first identified in 1976 when outbreaks occurred near the Ebola River in the DRC. Scientists think the virus initially infected humans through close contact with an ill animal, such as a bat, and then it spread from person to person.

How does the virus spread? When does it become an outbreak?  The virus spreads when people come in direct contact with an infected patients body fluids or with contaminated needs and syringes. An outbreak takes place when the infected people cannot be treated effectively or kept separately in quarantine, and the virus keeps jumping from one person to another, making them sick.

Got it! Why is this news about the medicines significant?

This is good news for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the DRC), a country in Central Africa. They have been facing a deadly outbreak of the virus since August 2018. This is the world’s second-largest outbreak where at least 1,800 people have died this past year.

The government has been having a hard time isolating those infected, and have been unable to stop the virus from spreading. In addition, many people that are sick are in difficult-to-access locations, making the jobs of healthcare workers that much harder.

What are the 2 medicines? One of the drug treatments is Regeneron’s REGN-EB3 and the other is an antibody called mAb114. Both were made using antibodies taken from survivors of Ebola. Antibodies are proteins in the body that fight diseases. They were found to be so effective that The World Health Organisation and the National Institute of Health, who were running the trials, halted them early because they were shown to greatly improve survival rates of the patients, and it would not have been fair to keep the medicines from those patients who were not in the trial.

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