New Development Method May Lead to Ebola Cure

Viral minigenome modifies the virus and and produces particles that are no longer harmful to humans.

A team of researchers was able to identify and test anti-Ebola drugs in an open laboratory for the first time.

Researchers used a minigenome system to evaluate candidate drugs that could put a stop to the Ebola virus, which currently has no approved treatments available.

A study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases gave detailed information on the procedure used to evaluate candidate anti-Ebola drugs, as well as comparing 8 drugs from 3 drug classes for antiviral efficacy.

Previous research for different Ebola treatments has been limited since they are unable to compare antiviral efficacy because cell model systems and treatment regimens have varied results. This makes it difficult to compare efficacy between compounds.

The screening procedure in the current study is used to study viral replication and evaluate new antivirals for Ebola. This method can be performed in most labs and can look at 2 to 3 different drug combinations. This is the first time this method has been used for testing Ebola drugs.

"We tested combinations because lower doses of each drug can be used, potentially decreasing side effects," said Professor Eleanor N. Fish, PhD. "Using this technology, scientists will be able to measure the inhibitory effects of their experimental drugs on the replication of Ebola virus, allowing us to compare results with confidence. This approach will also decrease the possibility of the emergence of drug resistance."

The Ebola virus-like particles used in the study were not fully infectious. The viral minigenome modifies the virus and is able to produce particles that are no longer harmful to humans.

The method used human cells and the model infection system to compare how combinations of the 8 different drugs, with different doses and post-exposure, were able to halt the virus.

The results of the study showed that the most potent inhibitor of Ebola was interferon beta, which is now a part of a clinical trial with Ebola patients who contracted the disease during the recent Guinea outbreak.

"It was found that drugs normally used to treat HIV/AIDS were also effective at inhibiting Ebola, alone, but more so in combination with interferon beta," said associate professor Donald R. Branch, PhD.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak that began in 2014 a public health emergency. As of December 2015, there have been 28,637 reported cases of Ebola and 11,315 deaths globally, with most occurring in West Africa. In the most recent outbreak the mortality was approximately 60%, making it one of the most deadly infectious diseases.