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Interferon Drug Promises Hope for Ebola Virus Treatment

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  • Ebola virus causes acute illness which may become fatal.
  • There are no specific vaccines or treatments for Ebola virus.
  • Interferon drugs are therapeutic agents which have potential for the treatment of viral infections and shows promise in treating Ebola.

Interferon Drug Promises Hope for Ebola Virus Treatment

A group of drugs that are used to treat hepatitis and some forms of multiple sclerosis were found to show promise in treating Ebola and increasing the survival.

The research study titled, "Interferon ß-1a for the treatment of Ebola virus disease: A historically controlled, single-arm proof of concept trial," was published in the journal PLoS One.

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Ebola outbreak first began in West Africa. Around 11,000 deaths occurred due to Ebola. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of Ebola in 2014-15 as a a public health emergency.

Ebola virus causes severe illness that is fatal if left untreated. However, there is no specific vaccine or approved treatment for Ebola virus disease (EVD). It is also a 'moral obligation' to collect and share all the data that is generated, to understand the safety and efficacy of any discovery, and evaluate the promising interventions to inform the future research, finds Dr. Eleanor Fish, senior author and senior scientist at Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI).

Vaccines for Ebola treatment are in several phases of clinical trials. Some of them showed promising published results in humans.

Research Study
The research study was conducted on nine individuals with Ebola virus who were treated with interferon ß-1a, compared to the matched set of 21 infected individuals, who received a standardized supportive care during the time period at a treatment center in Guinea, West Africa from March 26, 2015 to June12, 2015.

The results were compared to the percentage of patients who received supportive treatment. Around 67% of interferon-treated patients were found to be alive even after 21 days when compared to 19% of the former patients.

Also, the viral blood clearance was found to be faster in patients who were treated with interferon ß-1a.

Clinical symptoms of Ebola that include

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea were also relieved earlier in the interferon-treated patients.
Furthermore, 17 patients in other Guinean treatment centers who were found to match along with interferon-treated patients, based on the age and the amount of Ebola virus in the blood, were included in the analysis.

These patients, who did not receive interferon, had more than double their risk of dying as a result of not being treated with the drug.

They are a family of naturally occurring proteins that are produced in response to a viral infection. Interferons are therapeutic agents which are used for the treatment of viral infections. They are currently used for treating chronic Hepatitis B and C infections and for some forms of multiple sclerosis.

Interferons are found to inhibit the viral infections by preventing the entry of the virus into the target cells. They do this by blocking the different stages of the viral cycle. The viral cycle involves various stages for replication.

Dr. Fish, Professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto, said, "Despite the limitations of a single arm, non-randomized study, we infer from these data that Interferon ß-1a treatment is worth further consideration for the treatment of Ebola virus disease."

It was also noted that the decision for the clinical trial was based on a previous preliminary scientific data and also because there were no currently approved antivirals for treating Ebola.

Previous work led on human cells by Dr. Fish and his research team, were found to compare how well the eight different drugs, with different drug combinations and different doses, were able to inhibit the Ebola virus.

By using a mini-genome system to evaluate the drugs, the results found interferon beta to be a most potent inhibitor of Ebola.

The author also said that onsite team was composed of 11 Guinean health care workers who received the relevant training for the first time, in all aspects of conducting the clinical trial at international standards. The research team has also monitored Ebola survivors and the impact of interferon treatment.

Interesting Facts on Ebola
  • Ebola or Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a contagious and life-threatening disease which affect humans and primates.
  • Ebola virus gets its name from the Ebola River.
  • Ebola is not spread through casual contact, air or water.
  • Ebola infections spread only after the symptoms begin.
  • Headache, fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, stomach pain are some of the common symptoms that occur from 2 to 21 days after exposure.
  1. Mandy Kader Konde, Darren P. Baker, Fode Amara Traore, Mamadou Saliou Sow, Alioune Camara, Alpha Amadou Barry, Doussou Mara, Abdoulaye Barry, Moussa Cone, Ibrahima Kaba, Amento Ablam Richard, Abdoul Habib Beavogui, Stephan Günther, Melania Pintilie, Eleanor N. Fish. Interferon β-1a for the treatment of Ebola virus disease: A historically controlled, single-arm proof-of-concept trial. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169255
  2. Facts about Ebola - (https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/facts-about-ebola.pdf)
  3. Ebola - (http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/ebola.html)

Source: Medindia

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