German doctors cure Ebola patient with heart drugs

Heart medicine may be potential cure for Ebola, says German doctors.
Heart medicine may be potential cure for Ebola, says German doctors.

Doctors in Germany said on Wednesday a patient infected with Ebola had recovered after they had treated him with an experimental drug initially designed to treat vascular problems and help heart attack patients.

Ethical concerns about Ebola medication

Doctors at the Frankfurt University Hospital said the patient, who was medically evacuated to Frankfurt after working with Ebola victims in Sierra Leone, recovered after receiving the drug called FX06, developed by scientists at the Vienna General Hospital in Austria.

The patient, whose immune system had been weakened by the virus, was still in hospital, the medics told reporters at a news conference, and would spend more time in Frankfurt until he regained his strength.

While the doctors said their success with this patient suggested FX06 may be a potential treatment for Ebola, the Austrian scientists who developed it said in a statement on their website that another Ebola patient treated in Leipzig with the same drug had died "due to massive overall bleeding".

Drug may have beneficial effect

Despite this, they added, "there is good reason to believe that the drug has a beneficial effect as supportive treatment in Ebola patients."

Rather than attacking the virus, the Frankfurt hospital said the treatment focused on mitigating the damage to organs caused by the pathogen.

According to its developers, FX06 is an experimental drug designed to stop the leakage of plasma fluid from blood vessels, which is what happened to the Frankfurt patient. The drug is being tested on humans to treat some damage caused by heart attacks.

Patients must survive 10 to 12 days

"Patients need to survive for 10 to 12 days until their body has enough time to develop antibodies to Ebola," said Timo Wolf, the infectious diseases specialist who treated the patient, speaking at a press conference in Frankfurt on Wednesday.

Experimental drug couldn't save Liberian doctor

Various experimental treatments for Ebola are being fast-tracked through development and testing in an effort to find something to help control a massive epidemic of the disease raging through three countries in West Africa.

Some have already been used in patients in the United States and Liberia, but doctors say they can't be sure whether the medicines worked, since some patients can recover from Ebola if their immune system is able to fight and clear the virus.

Read: Drug and vaccine makers in race against Ebola

Potential Ebola treatments include Avigan, or favipiravir, from Japan's Fujifilm, which was originally developed as a flu drug; a medicine called ZMapp developed by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals in the United States; and a fourth potential drug called TKM-Ebola, being developed by Tekmira.

Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people in the current outbreak – the largest in history – with the vast majority of cases and deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Read More:

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Plant-based vaccines challenge big pharma
Experts question ethics of placebo drug trials in case of Ebola

Image: Find Ebola vaccine from Shutterstock.

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