KINSHASA - The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced what could be a major breakthrough in the battle against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), revealing that two out of four new drugs being tested have shown significantly improved survival rates for patients.

The research co-sponsored by WHO, shows that more than 90 per cent of infected people can survive if treated early.

On Tuesday, two people cured of Ebola using the experimental drugs in a Goma treatment centre, were allowed to go home.

WHO said in a statement that team members together with Government and NGO partners in the field, would continue to work with communities to identify cases, and “provide care as quickly as possible”, as well as continuing with the Ebola vaccination programme.

Despite the breakthrough, the year-long outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people in eastern DRC, and UN Children’s Fund UNICEF reported on Tuesday that the number of children orphaned, or left unaccompanied due to the epidemic, has more than doubled since April, requiring a rapid ramp-up in specialized care in the region.

While an experimental vaccine previously had been shown to shield people from catching Ebola, the news marks a first for people who already have been infected. “From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in the DR Congo, which has overseen the trial’s operations on the ground.