The U.S. military is developing a treatment against Ebola | Bioscience

August 29, 2013 – 01:54
Richard Ray Taylor, Lieutenant General, United States Army
  • It has been successfully tested in macaques, a model similar to human
  • It is promising, although the efficiency is far from complete
  • The production costs have been relatively inexpensive

Researchers at the Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases of the U.S. military have developed an effective treatment in monkeys against hemorrhagic fever that causes Ebola, which have a high rate of mortality.

The work is published in the latest issue of Science Translational Medicine and describes a treatment based on a combination of monoclonal and so far only by the name of MB-003. Three are the strengths of therapy: the fact that it has been tested in macaques, an experimental model very similar to humans, the treatment has been effective when administered up to two days after the onset of symptoms and that it may have occurred of a relatively cheap, the company Mapp Biopharmaceutical, who has collaborated with the army in new drug development.

The effectiveness is far from complete, since only 43% of the seven infected animals survived the disease, but the authors stress that these were not treated until symptoms develop to demonstrate the presence of the virus, an approach that been tested to date. In any case, is a very promising figure when taking into account that Ebola has mortality rates of up to 90% and the contact transmission capacity is very high.

Bioterrorism threat

Despite the severity of the disease, it only affects certain areas of Africa, so it is logical to ask what interest does the U.S. military to develop a drug for this disease, whose latest outbreak killed three people in Uganda.

The answer is given by the authors at the beginning of the article. "The classification of the Ebola virus (EBOV) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA as a class agent, appoints the EBOV as a bioterrorism threat, making research on this virus one priority for biodefense, "they write.

According ELMUNDO.ES explained the study's lead author, Gene Olinger, the goal of his research is to develop cost-effective medical treatments that are cheap to produce and can be distributed to the regions where they are most useful, including remote areas in countries in developing. "The main mission of research in the U.S. military is investigating products that protect our military, but in much of our work, as in the case of this study, there are potential occurring health benefits for civilians "he stresses.

The drug that U.S. researchers have developed combines three monoclonal antibodies: 13C6, 13F6 and 6d8. All had shown individually in animals some protection against the deadly virus. The combination of molecules macaques were injected seven, of which only three survived a figure much higher than in the control group, which killed all primates.


According to microbiologist at the University of Texas, Thomas Geisbert, Ebola expert who was not involved in this study, it is "very interesting and potentially important in terms of progress in the treatment of infections caused by the virus."

To Geisbert, work has mainly three forts. First, the fact that it has been conducted in cynomolgus monkeys. "This model accurately reflects the human disease, then the results are relevant" notes to this medium. Second, the treatment started at a later stage of infection than any previous work, "what is important in the context of an epidemic." Finally, U.S. researcher notes that monoclonal antibodies are well established as therapies for other diseases and have good safety profiles. "Thus, the transition to human use should be easier than for other candidates, " he says.


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