Experimental Ebola treatment trial shows inconclusive results

Favipiravir is typically used against severe influenza.
Favipiravir is typically used against severe influenza. | File photo

Scientists recently conducted a trial for an experimental Ebola treatment in Guinea during the latest Ebola outbreak, hoping to gather information for future treatments and vaccines for Ebola.

Unfortunately, there is still no effective treatment for Ebola. The outbreak reached its height in September 2014, when the World Health Organization published a shot list of treatments that might fight the virus.

One of these drugs was favipiravir, which is typically used against severe influenza. The non-randomized, multi-centered study evaluated this drug in treating 126 patients who had Ebola infections. Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive.

“In the midst of an Ebola outbreak, researchers may be faced with elements that make them feel that randomizing patients to receive either standard care or standard care plus an experimental drug is not ethically acceptable,” the authors wrote. “In these rare circumstances, it can be decided to not run a trial and to wait for more favorable conditions, or to run a non-randomized trial. In this pilot experience, we did the latter. Our conclusions are nuanced. On the one hand, we cannot conclude on the efficacy of the drug, and our conclusions on tolerance, although encouraging, cannot be as firm as they would have been if we could have used randomization. 

"On the other hand, we learned a lot about how to quickly set up and run a trial in such unusual circumstances and in close relationship with the community and non-governmental organizations, we integrated research into care so that it improved care, we rapidly generated and shared with the scientific community intermediate data that were useful for designing Ebola research, and we gathered evidence that will allow researchers to base further trials on strong preliminary assumptions."

The researchers, from INSERM of France and several international locations, published their findings in the latest PLOS Medicine edition.

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