Therapy in Development for Different Ebola Strains

Researchers seek to get ahead of potential future Ebola outbreaks.

While work continues on finding a vaccine for the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus that is currently ravaging West Africa, researchers are seeking to find treatments for the other 4 known strains of the disease.

In a study published in the current edition of ACS Chemical Biology, a team of investigators discovered a potential drug that might be able to treat patients infected with the Sudan strain—one of the more lethal Ebola strains that most recently spread in Africa in 2012.

The researchers noted that the Zaire and Sudan strains are the most common and deadliest strains of the disease, killing 50% to 90% of patients. With the majority of studies focusing on the Zaire strain due to the current outbreak, however, less work has been done to evaluate treatment strategies for the Sudan strain.

In a prior study of an experimental treatment for the Sudan strain, researchers evaluated an antibody created in mice that the human immune system recognized as foreign before getting rid of it and stopping it from treating the virus.

For the newly published study, researchers sought to create a “humanized” version of this antibody. To do so, the researchers put an Ebola-specific part of the mouse antibody on a human antibody scaffold and then made changes to the molecule. As a result, they identified 2 versions of the antibody that are able to fend off the Sudan strain in testing on cells and specially bred mice.

However, the treatment is not expected to aid the current outbreak of the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus, as the study noted antibodies that kill off 1 strain of the virus have not yet worked against the other strains.

Still, with multiple strains of the virus impacting Africa every couple of years, the experimental drug might help mitigate the damage from future outbreaks of the other most common Ebola strain.

“These antibodies represent strong immunotherapeutic candidates for the treatment of (the Sudan) infection,” the study authors concluded.