Experimental Drug Used For Ebola-Related Virus Shows Promise

The New York Times reported: “An experimental drug has completely protected monkeys from lethal doses of a virus related to Ebola, bolstering confidence that a similar medicine might be effective if deployed in the current outbreak in Africa, researchers reported on Wednesday.

The researchers said that the drug, which is being developed by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, kept all monkeys alive in a study, even if given as late as three days after exposure to the Marburg virus, when the virus was already detectable in the animals’ blood.

Both Marburg and Ebola are filoviruses that cause deadly hemorrhagic fever characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, uncontrolled bleeding and possible organ failure. Tekmira, which is based in British Columbia, has a separate drug for Ebola that is already in early testing in healthy human volunteers. Both drugs work the same way — turning off viral genes through an approach called RNA interference.

Marburg virus was first described in 1967 after outbreaks in three European cities, including Marburg, Germany, caused by the importation of monkeys from Uganda. The biggest outbreak was in Angola in 2004 and 2005, which affected more than 250 people, killing about 90 percent of them.

Some experimental drugs for Marburg and Ebola have been shown in animal studies to be effective when given shortly after infection. But in a real epidemic like the one in West Africa, most people do not know they have been infected until they get sick, which can be several days later. So there is a need for drugs that will treat a disease that is already underway.”

Click here to read the full New York Times story “Experimental Drug Used for Ebola-Related Virus Shows Promise” by Andrew Pollack.


Doctor, Did You Wash Your Hands? ™ provides information to consumers on understanding, managing and navigating health care options.

Jonathan M. Metsch, Dr.P.H., is Clinical Professor, Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; and Adjunct Professor, Baruch College ( C.U.N.Y.), Rutgers School of Public Health, and Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration.

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