Potential treatment for Ebola and other deadly viruses revealed

Ebola virusIllnesses caused by many of the world’s most deadly viruses cannot be effectively treated with existing drugs or vaccines. But this may all be about to change. Scientists have discovered several compounds that can inhibit the highly lethal Ebola virus, as well as the pathogens responsible for rabies, mumps, measles and other pathogenic viruses.

This finding, published in the journal Chemistry & Biology potentially opens up new therapeutic avenues for combating these diseases.

ebola-patientSuch treatments are desperately needed. Ebola virus, for example, can be transmitted through direct contact with blood or other body fluids of infected persons or animals, and even close contact with a deceased Ebola-infected body. And mortality rates from ebola can be as high as 90%.

The medical field currently does not have ideal antiviral therapies, often no therapeutics at all, and the development of broad-spectrum antivirals is a great way to provide treatment in the future,” says study author Claire Marie Filone PhD of Boston University School of Medicine. “Toward that end, we have identified a drug that targets multiple viruses – and may be developed into an antiviral treatment for known and emerging viruses.”

In contrast to the many antibiotics that work against a wide range of bacteria, there are currently no highly effective or safe broad-spectrum drug treatments for viral diseases.

virus cycleTo address this need, researchers screened thousands of diverse compounds for small molecules that showed strong antiviral activity against viruses.  They identified several that inhibited infection in cells exposed to either Ebola or vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV). These molecules, which are related to a class of plant-derived compounds called indoline alkaloids, share a common chemical structure that can be modified to enhance antiviral activity.

The most potent of these compounds demonstrated a consistent mechanism of action against genetically distinct viruses. It works by blocking viral transcription. Because it targets such a critical step in virus replication, in theory, scientists should be able to develop it into a therapeutic that could be used against many different types of viral infections.

As always, SRxA’s Word on Health will bring you further news as it develops.

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The end of swine flu?

Word on Health breathed a big sigh of relief earlier this week when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the official end of the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.

According to WHO the virus has largely run its course and we are now in the “post-pandemic period.” In other words, the virus is now expected to take on the behavior of the seasonal flu virus.

Does that mean we can expect to see few people wearing surgical masks in airplanes and on the Metro?  Will it be safe to leave our homes and desks without our bottles of hand sanitizer?

Can we revise our infectious disease presentations once again and consign H1N1 to the box of viruses of former concern, along with Ebola and SARS?

Was all the fuss worth it?

Responding to concerns that the agency acted too hastily in declaring a pandemic  last June, the WHO said it was “the right call.”  WHO Director-General Margaret Chan added that “we have been aided by pure good luck.” Chan noted,  if the virus had mutated then the current death toll of around 18 500 could have been much higher.

For those of you who can’t quite shake off the fear of H1N1, the good news is that the regular 2010 flu shot will contain protection against swine flu too.