Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe. Pic credit: The Independent Uganda

A Congolese doctor who is also Director General  of Congo’s National Institute for Biomedical Research, has become a “true hero” of Africa and the world in general after his experimental drugs were confirmed to treat patients with the Ebola virus.

“I spent four decades of my life thinking how to treat patients with the Ebola virus. So this is the achievement of my life,” Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe told the BBC.  The new  Ebola treatment can cure symptoms in just an hour.

Four drugs were recently trialled on patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Ebola has killed nearly 1,900 people over the past year.

It was discovered that more than 90% of infected people can survive if treated early with the latest experimental drugs.

Two people were this month cured of Ebola using the experimental drugs and the two were released from a treatment centre in Goma, DR Congo, and reunited with their families.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), two other treatments, called ZMapp and Remdesivir, which were used during the massive Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, have been dropped from trials as the new experimental drugs were most effective.

The trial in the DRC, which started in November, has now been stopped while all Ebola treatment units have been asked to use the two experimental or monoclonal antibody drugs.

“From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” said Dr Muyembe. “These advances will help save thousands of lives.”

In DRC, where there is a major outbreak of the virus – the second biggest ever- the biggest challenges to control the virus include frequent rebel attacks and high mobility of the population. Currently, suspicion of authorities and health agencies are also factors that are hindering efforts to contain the response, according to experts.

Muyembe, who joined scientists recently to announce the trial results, said, news of a cure could change the course of this outbreak.

“Now we can say that 90 percent can come out of treatment cured, they will start believing it and developing trust,” said the 77-year-old, who was part of the team that discovered Ebola 43 years ago. “The first ones to transmit this information will be the patients themselves.”

Dr. Muyembe, who has been referred to as a “true hero,” has been fighting Ebola since it first appeared in the DRC (then Zaire) in 1976.

At age 34, Muyembe was the first virologist ever to see an Ebola patient, and he has helped fight all of the outbreaks to hit his country since. 

This story has been adapted for NUANCE from face2faceafrica.com.

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