Ebola virus disease (EVD), the lethal infectious disease that once killed 90 percent of its victims, is now curable.
"There was a blockage before with the former minister of health but the door [to introduce a second vaccine] is no longer closed", said Claude Mahoudeau, emergency coordinator for Ebola for the Alliance for International Medical Action, or ALIMA, one of the main health NGOs involved in the response to the outbreak in Congo.
The first is REGN-EB3, a cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies against Ebola made by US firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.in New York State. During the West Africa Ebola epidemic several years ago, studies showed a hint that another antibody mixture named ZMapp worked, but not clear proof.
In comparison, two-third of the patients who got remdesivir and almost three-fourth on ZMapp survived.
"We are still seeing too many people stay away from Ebola treatment units, too many people not coming to hospitals [who] are not being found in time to benefit from these therapies", he added. Patients who received treatment early saw mortality rates of just 6% with the Regeneron drug and 11% with the NIH compound to about 24% for ZMapp.
"It's the first example that a therapeutic intervention can have a dramatic effect on decreasing the mortality of the Ebola virus disease", Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.
When the researchers took a deeper look at how patients fared when they seek treatment early in the disease progression, the drugs looked promising.
But Ilunga resigned from his post last month and has since been replaced by Jean-Jacques Muyembe - director of Congo's National Institute of Biomedical Research - who is thought to be more receptive to the Janssen vaccine.
The trial in the DRC, which started in November, has now been stopped.
Member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have joined forces to help the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fight the outbreak of the Ebola virus, a senior official from the bloc said on Monday.
"The trial will have saved lives". The next phase should reveal more about which of the two monoclonal antibodies works best in certain settings.
"The more we learn about these two treatments, ...the closer we can get to turning Ebola from a terrifying disease to one that is preventable and treatable", he said in a statement.
The average fatality rate for people with the disease is around 50 per cent. The death rate of the current outbreak is estimated to be up to 70%.
According to the latest data released by a technical committee running the Ebola response and reporting directly to the Congolese president, a total of 2,816 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri since Aug.