First trials for Ebola treatments to start at MSF sites in December

Two trials will take place in Guinea and the third at an unconfirmed location

Clinical trials to find an effective treatment for Ebola patients are to start in West Africa next month.

The international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says three of its Ebola treatment centres in the region will host three separate clinical trials.

The disease has so far taken around 5,000 lives in the current outbreak in West Africa, says MSF.

Two of the trials will take place in Guinea: in one, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) will lead a trial in Guéckédou using antiviral drug favipiravir, developed by Fujifilm Corporation company Toyama Chemical; in the other, the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) will lead a trial of convalescent whole blood and plasma therapy at the Donka Ebola centre in Conakry, Guinea.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the third trial, of the antiviral drug brincidofovir, developed by Chimerix, will be led by the University of Oxford, on behalf of the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC), at an unconfirmed location.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and health authorities of the affected countries are also taking part in this collaborative effort.

MSF is taking part in these accelerated clinical trials to give people affected by the current outbreak a better chance of survival

'This is an unprecedented international partnership which represents hope for patients to finally get a real treatment against a disease that today kills between 50–80% of those infected,' said Annick Antierens, who coordinates the investigational partnerships for MSF.

'As one of the principal providers of medical care to Ebola patients in West Africa, MSF is taking part in these accelerated clinical trials to give people affected by the current outbreak a better chance of survival.'

The first trials are due to start next month. Initial results could be available in February 2015.

The two drugs, brincidofovir and favipiravir, were selected from WHO’s shortlist of potential Ebola treatments after careful review of safety and efficacy profiles, product availability, and ease of administration to patients.

Professor Peter Horby, Chief Investigator of the ISARIC-led trial, said: 'Conducting clinical trials of investigational drugs in the midst of a humanitarian crisis is a new experience for all of us, but we are determined not to fail the people of West Africa.'

Should our trials give positive results, the next phase could consist of combining interventions

Professor Denis Malvy, who will lead the INSERM trial in Guinea, said: 'These three trials are part of the first phase of a research aimed at finding the best treatment to cure patients with Ebola.

'The three trial boards will therefore be coordinated in a very reactive way, so that any new fact can be discussed rapidly and our research plans can be adapted accordingly. Strengthening the link between our teams is all the more important as there is the possibility that, should our trials give positive results, the next phase could consist of combining interventions.'

The trial of convalescent whole blood and plasma therapy will consist of administering blood or plasma, containing antibodies from survivors, to infected patients. This approach is also endorsed by WHO.

'Convalescent plasma from recovered patients, containing antibodies against pathogens, has been safely used for other infectious diseases,' said ITM’s Johan van Griensven, who is coordinating investigator of the trial.

'We want to find out whether it works for Ebola, whether it is safe and whether it can be scaled-up to reduce the number of deaths in the current outbreak.'

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