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New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

  • VOA News

Scientists have developed a new drug that protects monkeys against Marburg, a virulent virus that’s in the same family as Ebola. A similar drug against the Ebola virus is in early clinical trials.

The study by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is the first looking at the effectiveness of the drug after the onset of Marburg symptoms.

Researchers found the compound vanquished Marburg in a study of 16 rhesus macaque monkeys. Post-exposure protection was seen up to three days after the primates were infected with the virus, at a point when they had begun to show symptoms of the disease. The animals were infected with Marburg-Angola, the most deadly strain. Like its sister Ebola, Marburg has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent.

Thomas Geisbert, who led the study, said the compound -- called small interfering RNA or SiRNA -- thwarts signaling by the microbe’s genetic material, or messenger RNA, so the virus can’t reproduce inside the body.

“The messenger RNA is kind of like a blueprint for how the virus makes more of itself. And the SiRNA kind of interferes or blocks that ability for it to kind of follow its recipe to make proteins.”

The researchers say the drug protects against a number of different strains of Marburg, but it would not stop Ebola. However, Geisbert told reporters, an SiRNA compound that blocks Ebola is in early clinical trials.

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