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A clinical trial for a possible treatment for Ebola began on the 1st of January at ELWA 3, MSF's Ebola Management Centre in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
Led by Oxford University based in the United Kingdom, and funded by the Wellcome Trust, the trial aims to determine if the anti-viral drug brincidofovir is an effective treatment for Ebola.
A release issued said taking part in the trial is completely voluntary and it is is designed without a control group (a group that does not receive the medication) in order to include as many Ebola positive patients as possible.
The released added that whilst MSF hopes that brincidofovir might reduce deaths from Ebola, it must be stressed that it is not a miracle cure and it is still not known whether it will help patients survive the virus.
“The drug, brincidofovir, will not be available at the medicine store, only under the specific conditions of the trial at ELWA 3” says Dr. Jake Dunning, Trial Clinical Lead from Oxford University.
“We know that is has been taken safely by over 1000 people in clinical trials for other viral infections and we know that is has been shown to be effective in laboratory tests that use Ebola-infected cells. What we do not know yet is if it will be effective against Ebola in humans - this is why we must do a trial,” Dr. Dunning indicated.
According to him, all new patients confirmed to be Ebola positive by blood test at ELWA 3 will be informed about the trial and can decide whether they would like to participate or not. He added that those who do not wish to be given the new treatment will receive the same standard supportive care as those who do.
Standard treatment includes oral and IV rehydration therapy, anti-malarial treatment, antibiotics, and specific treatment for symptoms of Ebola, like nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. The drug will not offer any benefit to people who do not have Ebola and it will only be given to those with confirmed Ebola.
“With every possible treatment comes hope, and we are very excited that we may be able to help our patients beyond symptom management and routine supportive treatments like IV fluid therapy” says MSF medical coordinator Brett Adamson. “But this treatment, even if shown to be effective, will not end the epidemic. To continue pushing case numbers down to zero, we must remember to keep washing our hands, avoid touching people we don't know, and to seek help when someone becomes sick or dies. Ebola has not gone away and we all have a lot of work still to do.”
The trial is running with the approval of the Liberian Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (LMHRA), and ethics committees from the University of Liberia, MSF and Oxford University. It is expected that the first results will be available in February 2015.
MSF has been responding to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia since July 2014. Currently the organization has some 1,400 national and international staff on the ground in Liberia and has treated more that 1600 Liberians confirmed to be Ebola positive.