Broad-range Ebola drug shows promise in animal tests

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An Ebola vaccine for humans may soon be available.
An Ebola vaccine for humans may soon be available.

An experimental Ebola drug was effective against all strains of the deadly virus in laboratory animals, scientists say.

Previous research typically took the "one bug, one drug" approach, said researcher Thomas Geisbert, a professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. But due to the unpredictable nature of Ebola, scientists have been trying to develop protection against multiple strains of the virus, he added.

Protection in a single dose

A single dose of a two-antibody drug fully protected monkeys and ferrets against the Bundibugyo and Sudan strains, as well as the deadliest Zaire strain responsible for the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa and the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the researchers said. The drug is called MBP134.

"Our experimental drug can protect against all forms of Ebola known to harm people, suggesting that it will continue to protect people if the Ebola viruses evolve over time," Geisbert said in a school news release.

"We were able to protect the nonhuman primates against all the Ebola species plaguing people at a single low dose," said Larry Zeitlin, president of drug maker Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego.

Further studies using even lower doses could open the door to auto-injector treatment like the kind used for allergic reactions, Zeitlin said.

However, it's important to note that results of animal experiments aren't necessarily applicable to humans.

Still, "the ability to quickly and efficiently provide protection against all Ebola viruses in a single dose would reduce the burden on health care workers in the field during outbreaks, especially in regions that have a less-developed infrastructure," Zeitlin added.

The research was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Image credit: iStock

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