New Ebola Drug Cures Monkeys in Clinical Trial

Scientists have edged closer to finding a cure for the deadly Ebola disease after successfully using an experimental drug to treat monkeys with Ebola raising hopes of the development of a human vaccine. The drug known as TKM-Ebola-Guinea is developed by a Canadian Pharmaceutical company and targets one of the Ebola virus which is the major cause the disease that has killed nearly 10.000 people. This drug interferes with the genetic code of the virus thus inhibiting it from producing proteins that cause the disease. According to scientists, this drug can be modified easily to treat other strains of the virus.

Another advantage of the drug is that it can be manufactured quickly compared to alternative drugs like the experimental ZMapp whose production can take several months. Six monkeys were injected with a lethal dose of the deadly Ebola virus during the animal trial and after three days three of the monkeys were treated with drug while the rest were left untreated. The monkeys that were treated with the TKM-Ebola recovered fully while the rest died within a few days. Scientists say that there is a high chance that the drug will work and they hope that these results on animals will successfully be replicated in humans.

In West Africa, several Ebola patients received this experimental drug with a combination of other treatments thus making it difficult to identify the particular drug that contributed to their recovery. In Sierra-Leone, scientists have already conducted a large-scale human trial of the drug although its efficacy and safety remain unknown although more trials and tests are needed to completely ascertain its effectiveness. According to the WHO, the Ebola outbreak has been contained and with efforts to develop its cure ongoing, there is a clarion call not to be complacent. The TKM-Ebola developed by Tekmira a Canadian pharmaceutical company, has been certified by the food and drug administration.

Currently there is no cure or vaccine for Ebola but health organizations and pharmaceutical companies are fast tracking the development of an effective and safe treatment to fully contain the current outbreak of the virus. A vaccine has already been jointly produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a British Pharmaceutical company and the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) and is one of three vaccines currently under development. Another drug ZMapp has raised hopes of controlling Ebola after it was administered to two infected American aid workers who both successfully recovered. ZMapp is produced from engineered tobacco plants although there are no facilities currently capable of producing the treatment in large amounts.

Ebola is described by the WHO as a severe acute viral disease with early symptoms similar to those of malaria. These symptoms include an intense weakness, a sudden fever, Diarrhoea, muscle pain, internal and external bleeding as well as vomiting. There are at least five known strains of the Ebola virus but the Zaire Ebola virus that is responsible for the outbreak in most parts of West Africa is regarded as among the most dangerous. Patients often die due to a severe loss of blood, organ failure and in some cases due to shock.

Scientists believe that this disease initially originated fro wild animals such as primates and fruit bats that were living in the tropical rainforests of equatorial Africa. Humans got infected after coming into contact with bodily fluids and blood from these infected animals during their hunting escapades. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood and bodily fluids such as sweat, saliva,vomit, semen and breast milk. Ebola also spreads through contact with contaminated objects such as medical equipment and needles. There is strong evidence that patients who recover from Ebola get immune to the strain that caused the disease.