A novel post-exposure therapy has been proven effective in the treatment of a specific strain of Ebola, a result of the collaborative efforts between investigators from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corp. The announcement was made as the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report with the latest numbers of the disease, confirming a decline of its incidence during the past three weeks.
The study entitled “Single-dose attenuated Vesiculovax vaccines protect primates against Ebola Makona virus” was published in Nature and revealed positive results in the treatment of the Ebola virus strain that killed thousands of people in West Africa. This is the first therapy proven effective in treating animals infected with the new outbreak strain, the Ebola Makona virus, that experienced disease symptoms.
“We quickly adapted our candidate treatment to target the Makona outbreak strain of Ebola virus,” explained UTMB’s professor of microbiology and immunology, Thomas Geisbert. “We were able to protect all of our nonhuman primates against a lethal Makona Ebola infection when treatment began three days following infection. At this point, those infected showed clinical signs of disease and had detectable levels of virus in their blood.”
The drug was developed to work with a sequence-specific short strand of RNA, siRNA, to target and interfere with the virus while quickly adapting to different viral strains. Within the studies conducted, the investigators observed that infected animals were able to recover completely from the symptoms despite already having advanced forms of the disease.
In addition, the treatment also protected animals’ livers and kidneys from dysfunctionality and blood disorders, common problems associated with Ebola infection. The researchers are optimistic about the study outcomes, as they believe it suggests the drug might offer protective benefits besides the ability to improve survival rates and effectively control the levels of virus in the patients’ bodies.
At the end of last year, Governor Rick Perry visited the Galveston National Laboratory at The University of Texas Medical Branch to get a firsthand look at the work being conducted in the lab in response to the spread of Ebola, after establishing a new task force dedicated to fighting the pandemic disease. The Galveston National Lab is currently one of the two National Biocontainment Laboratories in the country studying the disease and two of its academic members have been assigned to integrate the task force.
The efforts being made at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston may change the path of the Ebola outbreak, as 26,000 people were already infected since the beginning of the outbreak 16 months ago, of which 10,823 died. Those are the latest numbers presented in the latest WHO report, in which the organization appealed to a stronger community engagement, improved contact tracing and earlier case identification.