US researchers develop treatment for Ebola-like viral infection

Marburg VirusWashington (ISJ) ? US researchers have developed a treatment for Marburg virus or Angola hemorrhagic fever, similar to Ebola. The drug developed by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) was successful in protecting nonhuman primates against the virus.

Currently there is no vaccine or drug approved for human use and no post-exposure treatment that completely protected nonhuman primates against the most deadly Marburg viral strain, similar to Ebola, with a mortality rate of up to 90 per cent. The virus, which is in the same family of Ebola, has a rapid disease course of seven to nine days in nonhuman primates. There have been two recent cases of Marv HF in Europe and United States, causing concern about the threat to public health by this deadly virus.

"The increasingly frequent outbreaks of filoviral HF in Africa evidenced by the current rapidly spreading outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone illustrate the clear and present danger filoviruses represent to human health," said UTMB's Thomas Geisbert, professor of microbiology and immunology. "As such, the development of effective countermeasures against these viruses is a critical need."

Earlier studies with nonhuman primates have examined countermeasures against MARV infection at times before the subjects showed any evidence of clinical illness. This goal was to determine whether it is possible to protect animals against a lethal MARV-Angola infection when treatment was started at a point when animals have detectable levels of the virus in their system and show the first clinical signs of disease.

Their strategy centered on the MARV RNA genome that encodes for seven structural proteins, two of which are responsible for replicating the genome. These seven genes and their products represent targets for the development of therapeutic agents and vaccines against MARV.

The research team demonstrated that their lipid encapsulated small interfering RNA treatment completely protected nonhuman primates against lethal MARV-Angola HF when treatment began even up to three days following infection. The study appears in the latest edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Ebola has taken a toll of 1350 from four African nations ? Liberia (576), Guinea (396), Sierra Leone (374) and Nigeria (04).

Sources: UTMB/WHO

Image courtesy: UTMB


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