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article imageCan existing medications treat Ebola?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 4, 2015 in Science
Can currently available drugs be used to help treat Ebola? This is an area which has attracted considerable research interest. Finding the right drug is certainly cheaper than inventing alternatives.
Repurposing existing drugs offers many benefits over discovering and developing new ones, especially if these off-the-shelf compounds are already approved by regulatory agencies. This is especially import in the case of Ebola. Ebola is an unpleasant disease. After an incubation time that can stretch to twenty-one days, one of the common signs of the disease is bleeding from mucous membranes and puncture sites. If the infected person does not recover, death due to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome occurs. Current research suggests that the epidemic in West Africa originated from bats.
For these reasons researchers from the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences have found more than 50 drugs that show potential as anti-Ebola treatments. The 50 was whittled down from almost 3,000 compounds drawn from the U.S. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences drug library,. These candidate compounds include several cancer drugs as well as antihistamines, antipsychotics, antibiotics, female fertility drugs, and antimalarial drugs.
Matthew Frieman, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine told The Scientist: “Looking at approved drugs—especially in the context of an outbreak—and this type of off-list use of potential drugs, is useful. It can start discussions with doctors and clinicians in the field.”
The next step is to study the candidate drugs quickly, and if effective, get them quickly used in people.
The list of fifty possible drugs have been listed and discussed in the journal Emerging Microbes and Infections. The paper is titled “Identification of 53 compounds that block Ebola virus-like particle entry via a repurposing screen of approved drugs.”
In related Ebola news, the U.S. CDC has raised a new warning about the spread of the virus. The Agency notes that more effort needs to be put in to slow down the spread disease. The deadly virus has claimed more than 7,000 lives across West Africa. Meanwhile, the U.K. is dealing with its second Ebola case. A nurse who has just returned from West Africa to the U.K. has been diagnosed with Ebola. The healthcare worker is being treated in hospital in Glasgow, Scotland.
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