Ebola drug trials lurch ahead

News leaked last week that the drug favipiravir worked in some Ebola patients, but even researchers running the study in Guinea said questions remain about its efficacy. Interpreting the data is difficult because there is no control arm that treated patients can be compared with.

This is just one of several confusing twists in the search for a treatment that can stave off death and disease from Ebola virus. Chimerix, the maker of an antiviral called brincidofovir, surprised investigators in Liberia when it suddenly ended a study of its drug after discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Chimerix noted that the study was having trouble enrolling patients because Liberia has seen a steep drop in cases, but the researchers running it said they had hoped to expand the trial to Sierra Leone, where most new infections are happening.

Liberia is also beginning another trial with ZMapp, a cocktail of Ebola antibodies, and study leaders are having difficulty convincing Sierra Leone and Guinea to join because the study uses a placebo control. Finally, a trial of convalescent serum taken from recovered patients is getting under way in Guinea, but there are now questions about whether it should be compared with favipiravir as a control.

*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicinehave made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public.

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