The Ebola virus kills 90% of those infected.
The reason is that the best available treatment must be administered within an hour of infection, which isn’t a lot of time — especially considering that symptoms take anywhere from two days to three weeks to appear.
But a new ebola virus treatment that has proved effective in monkeys holds promise for lengthening the treatment window for humans to 24 hours. Though it’s still not long enough to provide treatment after symptoms appear, the boost could prove critical for treating a virus that many fear could be used as a biological weapon.
Scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada infected a group of monkeys with the deadliest strain of the Ebola virus, called the Zaire virus, which is present in African countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon. Twenty-four hours later, they treated four of them with a cocktail of three antibodies. All four survived.
Four more monkeys received the treatment 48 hours later, and two of those survived.
“The antibodies slowed replication until the animals’ own immune systems kicked in and completely cleared the virus,” says lead researcher Gary Kobinger, a medical microbiologist at the University of Manitoba. The results were published in Science Translational Medicine.
This new treatment differs from previous ones in that it targets multiple areas of a protein on the virus, making it more difficult for Ebola to infect cells.
Nature reports that Defyrus, a Toronto-based biotechnology firm, is creating an Ebola treatment called Defilovir, that will use both the antibodies and an antiviral gene therapy. The company will begin a phase I clinical trial in late 2014 on uninfected people to see if an antibodies are safe in the human body.
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photo: Ebola virions (Ayacop/Wikimedia)