New tests at the University of Texas have shown that existing drugs can be used to fight ongoing bioterrorist threats. Both anthrax and Ebola responded well to treatment with pharmaceuticals already on the market. None of the drugs tested were intended for use as anti-viral or anti-bacterial medication. Their principal intent was to combat diabetes and high blood pressure.
Naturally, not all medications aimed at diabetes and high blood pressure were functional in fighting the menace of bioterrorism. Of the 1,012 drugs put on trial, only 24 were found to have anti-viral properties that could be useful. As few as 10 had anti-bacterial agents that would help to combat the numerous bacterial agents that might be employed in a combat or terrorist situation.
While these numbers seem low, the fact that they are already currently available is a huge advantage. FDA approval is a lengthy process with numerous stopgaps to intervene. A drug that has been thoroughly vetted is known to be safe for human consumption. A new drug – concocted at the height of an outbreak of biological weapons – is going to generally be inferior, having been hastily constructed and approved.
The study of these drugs included esteemed scholars such as Jean Patterson, PhD, and Ricardo Carrion, PhD, both of whom work with Texas Biomed.
“Repurposing of existing drugs that may have unanticipated activities as potential countermeasures is one way to meet this important goal, since currently approved drugs already have well-established safety and pharmacokinetic profiles in patients, and manufacturing and distribution networks,” says the study. “Therefore, approved drugs could rapidly be made available for a new indication in an emergency.”
These drugs could work in tandem with the existing ability for early determination of bioterrorist threats to combat outbreaks. A combination of accurate identification and available treatment would enable first-response teams to be able to not only limit the damage of a potential outbreak, but to possibly cure it before it spread to the general populace.
The drugs that proved most effective were surprisingly simple. Lomefloxacin and erythromycin, both of which are commonly prescribed to treat bronchial infections, as well as urinary tract infections, were very useful in fighting anthrax.
Battling Ebola was more difficult, but a little-used drug called chloroquine showed great promise. It is typically administered to stop the spread of malaria, but has tremendous value as a treatment for weaponized Ebola virus,
“It would be important to determine if a combination of drugs could be more potent than each individual drug,” says Texas Biomed virologist Robert Davey, PhD. “Such synergy, when seen, usually means you can lower the dose of each drug and still have a big impact on the disease while minimizing bad side effects. Such work could prove useful as an easy frontline defense against these viruses.”chloroquine