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Potential Treatment For Ebola Announced

August 23, 2010

Ebola may soon be easier to fight thanks to a new treatment being tested by US scientists.

A treatment administered to rhesus monkeys within an hour of being incepted by the deadliest strain of Ebola was 60 percent effective, and a companion drug was 100-percent effective.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they have given the green light for trials on a small group of human volunteers.

The Ebola virus is part of a family of so-called filoviruses, which cause hemorrhagic fever — a disease that has a 90 percent mortality rate.

The drugs are a compound called phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMO).  They are designed to stop the viral cells from replicating, helping to buy time for the immune system to fight off the infection.

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases conducted the research in collaboration with a Washington-based biotech firm, AVI BioPharma.

The Pentagon helped fund the research for a vaccine and treatment for Ebola-type viruses.

Filoviruses are on the list of pathogens like anthrax, which are considered tempting sources for biological warfare.

A team at the U.S. National Emerging Diseases Laboratory Institute at Boston University Medical School designed drugs with small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs, which hamstring reproductive enzymes.

Experts say that despite this progress, there is still more work to be done before any treatment is licensed for humans.

According to the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO), about 1,850 cases of Ebola have occurred since 1976.  Those cases led to about 1,200 deaths.

The virus has a natural reservoir in several species of African fruit bat.  Gorillas and other non-human primates are also susceptible to the disease.

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