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article imageMarburg virus drug shows promise

By Tim Sandle     Aug 22, 2014 in Science
Monkeys infected with lethal doses of Marburg virus, as part of a laboratory study, were rescued by an experimental siRNA-based therapeutic.
Filoviruses cause two types of viral haemorrhagic fever: Marburg and Ebola. Ebola has recently taken the bulk of the headlines due a critically high number of deaths in Africa; however, infection with Marburg virus can be just as serious. Marburg virus (MARV) causes severe disease in humans and nonhuman primates. It was rumored that the Soviet Union had an extensive offensive and defensive biological weapons program that included MARV.
Some new research of interest has been published. Here an experimental drug rescued monkeys infected with lethal doses of a virus closely related to Ebola even when given days after the infection occurred.
With the study, researchers led by Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas in Galveston and his colleagues from Tekmira infected 21 rhesus monkeys with potentially lethal doses of a virulent strain of Marburg. Groups of the monkeys were given a siRNA (short interfering RNAs) drug at different times after infection, ranging from 30 minutes to three days. All animals that received the drug survived, while control subjects died seven to nine days after treatment. The drug was developed by Canadian company Tekmira Pharmaceuticals. The drug blocks viral genes to treat infections. The results are encouraging enough to trigger further studies.
The findings have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the paper is titled "Marburg virus infection in nonhuman primates: Therapeutic treatment by lipid-encapsulated siRNA."
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