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Ebola treatment trials may begin, as worries grow over Congo outbreak

Data: Ministry of Health DRC; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

U.S. health officials may soon start trials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to test the efficacy of different Ebola treatments if they get the necessary approvals, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios.

Why it matters: The combination of violence against health care workers and the deadly virus caused the head of the Centers for Disease Control to issue a warning earlier this week that Ebola could become "endemic" to Congo. The only potential bright spot to a such a devastating outbreak would be testing experimental treatments to help indicate which ones actually work best, Fauci says.

Driving the news: Four treatments — ZMapp, mAb114, remdesivir (GS-5734), and REGN-EB3 (REGN3470-3471-3479) — are currently under consideration for trials in the DRC, with the hope of beginning as soon as next week if they get approval, Fauci says.

  • U.S. public health officials are in the DRC capital of Kinsasha, training medical personnel to prepare for the trials, which have not been finalized yet.

Details of outbreak: Fauci says the worry is that the outbreak could be long-term until the DRC becomes more secure, and public health officials can successfully conduct the ring vaccination, quarantine and treatment procedures needed to contain and eradicate the disease.

  • The DRC Ministry of Health reports a mix of success from community outreach efforts and continued episodes of violence, such as when a team of 3 civil protection agents and 1 epidemiologist were taken hostage by rebels this week at the village of Matembo, which is between Beni and Butembo.
  • But, the World Health Organization said Thursday they are seeing a positive impact from measures being taken there.

Other developments: The Food and Drug Administration announced Friday it issued the emergency use authorization (EUA) of a rapid, single-use test for detection of the Zaire Ebola virus, which is the current strain in DRC.

  • The test, called DPP Ebola Antigen System, is the second Ebola rapid antigen fingerstick test available under EUA. But it's the first that uses a portable battery-operated reader, which could make it ideal for on-the-ground testing during outbreaks.

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