Drug shows promise for Ebola virus treatment in primates

For the first time, scientists have successfully treated monkeys infected with the deadly Ebola virus. Ebola causes hemorrhagic fever that kills up to 80 percent of humans infected with the virus.

These findings, published in the December 13th issue of THE LANCET, represent an important step in the search for a treatment strategy for Ebola. Currently no effective therapies are available.

In the study, Thomas W. Geisbert and colleagues from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) injected 12 rhesus macaques with Ebola virus. Nine of the animals received a drug called recombinant nematode anticoagulant protein c2 (rNAPC2), while the remaining three were untreated.

In the treatment group, monkeys received rNAPC2 either immediately after Ebola infection, or 24 hours later, and continued to receive it daily for up to fourteen days. Three of the nine monkeys survived, and death was slowed by several days in the remaining six. All three untreated animals died.

Previous attempts to use antiviral drugs to treat Ebola have demonstrated success in mice and guinea pigs, but not in primates. Geisbert's team approached the problem a different way--by focusing on the symptoms triggered by the virus, rather than the virus itself.

Ebola causes coagulopathy, or abnormal blood clotting, which ultimately leads to massive hemorrhage and death. Studies at USAMRIID suggest that macrophages, a type of white blood cell, play an important role in this process. When a host is infected with Ebola virus, the macrophages express a clotting protein, called tissue factor, on their surfaces. These cells are then attracted to the blood as it flows through the body, forming localized clots that pave the way for abnormal bleeding.

Using rNAPC2, according to Geisbert, essentially blocks the harmful effects of tissue factor. The drug is already being evaluated to treat coronary problems, and has a demonstrated p

Contact: Caree Vander Linden
US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

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