Researchers publishing in the most recent issue of The Lancet believe they're on the track to a possible treatment for the deadly Ebola virus.
In a study conducted in rhesus monkeys, researchers found injections of a factor known to inhibit blood coagulation called rNAPc2 led to increased survival rates.
The Ebola virus kills its victims by causing severe hemorrhagic fever. This leads to excessive coagulation of the blood and, ultimately, organ failure. In outbreaks in Zaire, about 80 percent of people who contracted the virus died. The death rate in monkey models of the disease has been nearly 100 percent. These researchers wondered if the disease could be stopped by using rNAPc2 to inhibit the blood coagulation pathway.
Researchers from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases tested the treatment in nine monkeys who were intentionally infected with the virus. Three additional monkeys were infected with the virus but received no treatment and served as controls. Results show the treatment prolonged survival time. What's more, 33 percent of the treated monkeys actually survived the disease and regained their health. Just one of the monkeys in the control group survived until the end of the study, and that monkey subsequently died.
The authors write, "Our results have great clinical implications, since our treatment approach of Ebola hemorrhagic fever targets the disease process rather than replication of the infectious agent." Noting rNAPc2 has a good safety profile in humans, they believe it might also have a role to play in other viral hemorrhagic fevers. "The clinical efficacy of this treatment modality now needs to be proven," they conclude.