Ebola Treatment Shown to Work on Infected Monkeys

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 22, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

A new Ebola drug grown from spe­cial to­bacco plants has been shown to cure mon­keys that were already dis­play­ing signs of in­fec­tion by the vir­al hem­or­rhagic fever, the Los Angeles Times re­por­ted on Wed­nes­day.

Oth­er Ebola coun­ter­meas­ures have been shown to work on in­fec­ted an­im­als be­fore they start dis­play­ing symp­toms of the highly vir­u­lent and leth­al dis­ease. However, this is the first time a drug has demon­strated any ef­fect­ive­ness after signs of the vir­us have mani­fes­ted. That is re­garded as a cru­cial cap­ab­il­ity in the event of a real-life dis­ease epi­dem­ic, ac­cord­ing to vir­o­lo­gist Gene Olinger, who works at the Army Med­ic­al Re­search In­sti­tute of In­fec­tious Dis­eases at Fort De­t­rick, Md.

“We’ve pushed the op­por­tun­ity to treat people to the point where they walk in and say, ‘I have a fever,’” said Olinger, co-au­thor of a re­port on the new Ebola drug pub­lished by the Sci­ence Trans­la­tion­al Medi­cine journ­al on Wed­nes­day. “A lot of folks in the field would have thought pro­tect­ing an an­im­al at the time of fever and viremia is too late to have a clin­ic­al be­ne­fit.”

Ebola is one of the most deadly and con­ta­gious dis­eases known to ex­ist in nature. The lack of ad­equate vac­cines and an­ti­dotes for the dis­ease have made it a ser­i­ous worry for biode­fense spe­cial­ists con­cerned about its pos­sible ap­plic­a­tions as a bio­lo­gic­al weapon.

In the re­cent study, sev­en in­fec­ted rhesus mon­keys were ad­min­istered the ex­per­i­ment­al treat­ment MB-003 through their veins once every three days. Three of the mon­keys did not die, res­ult­ing in a stat­ist­ic­ally not­able suc­cess rate of 43 per­cent.

Fort De­t­rick sci­ent­ist and lead study au­thor James Pet­titt said it is prob­able that in a real-life out­break, the drug would be ad­min­istered at a high­er dosage and with great­er fre­quency.

“We think we’ll get bet­ter res­ults,” the re­search­er said.

Grow­ing the drug from spe­cially de­veloped to­bacco leaves is not only less costly than con­ven­tion­al cell-based meth­ods, but also al­lows for large batches of the drug to be pro­duced on fairly short, weeklong sched­ules, ac­cord­ing to the Times art­icle.

Olinger said fur­ther meas­ures will be taken to im­prove MB-003 by adding to it more Ebola an­ti­bod­ies that were dis­covered by a dif­fer­ent group of re­search­ers.

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