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Ebola outbreak in DRC - comment from Peter Piot

The Minister of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo has resigned. DRC President Félix Tshisekedio is now overseeing the response to the Ebola epidemic.

Commenting on this change of strategy Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

"Nearly one year into the world’s second largest-ever Ebola outbreak—with over 2,500 cases and more than 1,700 deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—there is no sign of this epidemic slowing down. We therefore welcome the DRC President’s bold decision to change strategy and bring the Ebola response under his direct supervision.

"Over the past few months the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and partners* have been working with local and national authorities in DRC, including with the Ministry of Health, to support the deployment of a second investigational vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson under study conditions.

"This has been conducted under the leadership of Prof JJ Muyembe, the Director of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale and in line with recommendations of the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts Committee. Trial protocols were submitted to both of DRC’s national ethics committees and the regulatory body.

"The DRC has been a leader in innovation during Ebola outbreaks, and should remain at the forefront of research and innovation in this area. LSHTM will continue to support control efforts and to strengthen preparedness for future epidemics, including the coordinated use of the investigational Merck and J&J vaccines.

"The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) investigational Ebola vaccine regimen has been tested in more than 6000 persons and is safe. Although it has not been used in previous outbreaks, and thus demonstration of efficacy in humans is lacking, it has shown outstanding safety and immunogenicity in humans and is highly protective against Ebola challenge in non-human primates.

"Both vaccines should work hand in hand, the J&J vaccine as primary prevention and the Merck vaccine continuing as a ring vaccination approach. It is imperative that stronger community engagement, strengthened diagnosis and real time sequencing be implemented alongside these vaccines.

"We look forward to continued collaboration with national authorities and in-country partners to support DRC in bringing this devastating outbreak under control."

*Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, Médecins Sans Frontières, World Health Organization, Wellcome, Johnson & Johnson