Meet Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum, the brilliant African researcher who has developed a 'cure' for Ebola

Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the Congolese doctor behind the Ebola cure (Royal Society)
  • Ebola is one of the deadly viral diseases in the world.
  • It has taken the lives of nearly 1900 people since it broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in August 2018.
  • This is about to change thanks to a new treatment by a team led by top Ebola researcher Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum.

A group of researchers have found a cure for Ebola, a deadly disease that has infected nearly 2,800 people and killed over 1,800 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past year.

This team lead by Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum initially started with four treatments but only two have shown remarkable promise at treating Ebola.

During the clinical trials, these experimental drugs — an antibody cocktail called REGN-EB3 developed by Regeneron and a monoclonal antibody called mAb114 — improved “survival rates from the disease more than two other treatments being tested.”

They increased the survival rates for infected people from 89 to 94 per cent by attacking the Ebola virus with a combination of monoclonal antibodies that neutralise its deadly effect on human cells.

“From now on we will no longer say that Ebola is not curable. This advance will in the future help save thousands of lives that would have had a fatal outcome in the past,” Muyembe, director-general of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale, announced. 

According to Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which co-sponsored the trial, the results are “very good news” for the fight against Ebola.

NIAID added: “They are the first drugs that, in a scientifically sound study, have clearly shown a significant diminution in mortality.”

The Congolese doctor behind the Ebola cure

Dr Muyembe started fighting Ebola after the deadly disease made its first appearance in the DRC (formerly known as Zaire) in 1976. He was 34 at the time.

Since then, he has been helping his country in the fight against all outbreaks including the ongoing massive epidemic that started in August 2018.

Explaining how much work has gone into finding a cure, Dr Muyembe told BBC: “I spent four decades of my life thinking about how to treat patients with the Ebola virus. So this is the achievement of my life.”

His hard work finally paid off when two Ebola patients were declared ‘cured’ after using his experimental drugs and released from a treatment centre in Goma, DR Congo.

Asked about how he felt about this, he said: “I’m a little sentimental. I had this idea a long time ago, and I’ve waited patiently for it. I’m very happy, and I can’t believe it.”

Dr Muyembe shared the good news on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at a press conference in Goma.

He said, “Ebola kills quickly and Ebola heals quickly. That’s the message. These cases were detected very quickly. The husband was infected, he was at home for 10 days and his wife and son were infected. As soon as the response teams detected these cases, they brought them here to the treatment centre. We gave them treatment that is effective and here in a short time both are cured.”

The Congolese doctor added, “We are waiting until the end of the 21-day surveillance period. We are at day 13, so there are still 8 days to go before we can say that Goma has won against Ebola.”

Dr Muyembe’s cure will now be offered to all infected patients at no cost for “compassionate use.”

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