DRC records more Ebola as presidential election is called

Educating Congolese voters
Educating Congolese voters

UN, Martine Perret / Flickr cc

Early this morning, election officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) called Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential election held on Dec 30.

Tshisekedi opposed the candidate handpicked by the departing president, Joseph Kabila, and some groups have already called the victory an "election coup," according to a story in The Guardian, because Tshisekedi also bested Martin Fayulu, who held a healthy polling lead going into the election. Scattered violent protests have already been reported.

In research news, tests in animals show promise for a new monoclonal antibody therapy.

Three new cases

Against the election backdrop, new cases of Ebola are still being recorded in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Yesterday the DRC recorded a new case in Katwa and a new community death from Ebola in the same town. Community deaths pose a greater risk of transmission than those that take place in a hospital or Ebola treatment center.

As of yesterday, the Ebola outbreak stands at 628 cases, of which 580 are confirmed. There have been 383 deaths, and the DRC said data on the number of cases still under investigation was not available.

Today the DRC health ministry said cases rose to 630, reflecting 2 new cases, both confirmed and fatal, with 122 suspected cases still under investigation. The new deaths are in Katwa and Biena, and both occurred in the community.

DRC officials also noted that the number of people vaccinated has now topped 58,000.

In its daily update yesterday, the DRC ministry of health also said the first baby born to a survivor of the current outbreak was born on Jan 6 and shows no sign of the virus. Baby Sylvana was born at a treatment center in Beni. Her mother survived an Ebola infection in December and agreed to have her child born at an Ebola treatment center.

"Fortunately, Baby Sylvana has been tested twice and the results have come back negative," the ministry of health said.

Last month DRC officials reported that a baby born to an Ebola-infected mother had survived an infection, but the woman had died during childbirth.

Promise for experimental treatment

Every patient in this outbreak has received medical treatment for the virus, including ZMapp, a monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment. Today, two new studies in Cell Host & Microbe showed that a new cocktail of Ebola virus mAbs was protective in guinea pigs, ferrets, and rhesus macaques.

All tested therapies were effective for more than one of the six viruses in the Ebola family, of which four cause deadly hemorrhagic fevers in humans.

In the first study, two antibodies isolated from an Ebola survivor offered protection against both  Sudan ebolavirus and Ebola virus in guinea pigs. The next-generation human mAb cocktail, MBP134AF, exhibited glycoproteins that targeted all six strains of Ebola, the study authors said.

In a second study, the cocktail, given in a single dose, was shown protective in eight ferrets and 10 monkeys.

"The developmental path of MBP134AF presents a model for the rapid design of next-generation antiviral immunotherapeutics targeting World Health Organization-priority pathogens," the study authors concluded.

See also:

Jan 10 Guardian article

Jan 9 DRC update

Jan 10 DRC update

Dec 13, 2018, CIDRAP News story "Officials note 10 new Ebola cases as youngest patient recovers"

Jan 10 Cell Host Microbe guinea pig study

Jan 10 Cell Host Microbe ferret-macaque study

This week's top reads