Four new Ebola cases confirmed in DR Congo

Four new Ebola cases have been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, health officials said as preparations are underway to deploy an experimental treatment.

The latest case was confirmed near the town of Mangina in North Kivu province, bringing the total for the current outbreak to 21.

The DR Congo health ministry confirmed that two more people – one near Mangina and another in the city of Beni – died of the haemorrhagic fever. In all, it is believed to have killed 38 people, although several of these cases have not been confirmed.

Earlier this week, authorities began vaccinating health workers and people who came in contact with the confirmed cases. The experimental vaccine, manufactured by Merck, proved effective against an outbreak in western Congo that ended late last month.

Officials are also ready to use an experimental treatment called mAB114 on Ebola patients for the first time, Steve Ahuka, a virologist at the National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) in the capital Kinshasa, said.

The treatment was developed in the United States using the antibodies of the survivor of an Ebola outbreak in the western Congolese city of Kikwit in 1995 and was 100 percent effective when tested on monkeys.

“It’s experimental. So we are following the protocol. It has been submitted to the ethical committee and the ethical committee gave its okay,” Ahuka said, adding it could be used within days.

He said other experimental treatments, including ZMapp, a similar antibody drug made by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals in San Diego, could also be used.