New drug shows early promise as Ebola vaccine

A new drug produces encouraging results as possible Ebola vaccine.
A new drug produces encouraging results as possible Ebola vaccine. | Courtesy of

Researchers recently administered an experimental drug that targets an Ebola virus protein to a group of monkeys and discovered that 75 percent of the monkeys did not contract the virus after virus exposure.

The research team was a collaboration between the U.S. Army and Sarepta Therapeutics.

The monkeys received AVI-7537, which targets protein VP24. The bloodstreams of most monkeys showed a significant reduction of Ebola within eight days of receiving the treatment. Such responses are considered gold standards as researchers predict how humans might respond ahead of human trials.

Researchers tested a group of drugs called phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers (PMOs). These drugs are synthetic anti-sense molecules that use the genetic codes with viruses such as Ebola to inhibit the virus’s reproductive capabilities.

The scientists’ previous work demonstrated that a mixture of PMOs targets specific protein genes -- VP35 and VP24 -- in Ebola. These treatments prevented rhesus monkeys from contracting Ebola.

Then the researchers deduced that targeting only VP24 also could protect subjects from contracting Ebola; targeting on VP35 resulted in no preventive effect.

Currently, most products that doctors use to treat Ebola patients in West Africa have not been adequately tested. As of today, no licensed medical preventatives or cures for Ebola exist.

Further details on the study can be found in this week’s edition of mBio, the open-access, online journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

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American Society for Microbiology

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