The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston's Thomas Geisbert has just published a study offering the first evidence that a drug developed to fight Ebola works against the strain causing the current outbreak in West Africa, reports The Daily Telegraph. The drug is now being tested in Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
Scientists say they have developed the first successful treatment for Ebola, which works up to three days after exposure to the virus.
Animal trials have found that TKM-Ebola – which has already been given to some victims on an experimental basis – protected all monkeys who were infected with a lethal dose of the virus. Researchers said they were hopeful that the drug could be equally effective in humans, and offer more promise than other experimental treatments, which take much longer to develop.
Researchers from the University of Texas infected six rhesus monkeys with a high dose of Makona Ebola virus, the current dominant strain around the world. Half were given TKM Ebola, and survived, while untreated animals succumbed to the disease eight or nine days after infection, the study found.
Researchers said the finding was particularly important because the new drug can be developed within eight weeks and modified to different viral strains of Ebola.
Geisbert, professor of microbiology and immunology, said he was hopeful that similar results would be seen in humans. "In most cases we would say there is a 90% chance that this would work but not 100% – there’s nothing that is that definitive," he said.
The treatment uses a sequence specific short strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA), known as SiRNA, which is designed to target and interfere with the Ebola virus, rendering it harmless. One of the advantages of this approach is the ability to quickly modify it to different viral strains.
[link url="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/ebola/11556336/Ebola-treatment-that-works-up-to-three-days-after-exposure-developed-by-scientists.html"]Full report in The Daily Telegraph[/link]
[link url="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14442.html"]Nature abstract[/link]