First Treatment Proven to Work Against Ebola Virus

Not only have researchers established a successful way to kill the potentially fatal Ebola virus, but the treatment can do so just days after infection.

Not only have researchers established a successful way to kill the potentially fatal Ebola virus, but the treatment can do so just days after infection.

By interfering with molecules, lead author Emily P. Thi, of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), and her colleagues addressed the new strain of Ebola brought with the latest outbreak in West Africa. There is little research on how infected living patients can be treated with the new strain, but this study showed that ridding the disease in rhesus monkeys is possible. The authors, from the UTMB and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, identified an effective regimen against a specific type of the deadly virus.

Documented in Nature, the treatment modified the Makona Ebola virus in order to make it harmless. This was done by using “a sequence specific short strand of RNA, known as siRNA, designed to target and interfere with the Ebola virus.” The untreated animals in the study died 8 to 9 days after exposure — similar to real life infections – however, those who underwent treatment faced a very different, positive outcome.

“We were able to protect all of our nonhuman primates against a lethal Makona Ebola infection when treatment began three days following infection,” one of the study’s authors Thomas Geisbert, professor of microbiology and immunology at UTMB, said in a news release.

The team explained that even the treated subjects showed clinical signs of Ebola, however, the symptoms were milder and they made a full recovery.

More good news that comes with the treatment is that it proved to protect against other issues associated with the virus including blood disorders and liver and kidney dysfunction. This means that in addition to improving the survival rate of Ebola, even more people can benefit from these findings.

“This study demonstrates that we can rapidly adapt our siRNA-LNP technology to target genetic sequences emerging from new Ebola virus outbreaks,” Mark Murray, PhD, president and CEO of Tekmira Pharmaceuticals.

Now that the treatment has proven to work on animals, providers are testing the siRNA-based therapeutic on infected patients in Sierra Leone.