A cure for Ebola? Hepatitis drug shows promising results in treating disease


David Greeley

Date: 11.03.2017

New Delhi: For the first time, a pilot study of a class of drugs used to treat hepatitis and some forms of multiple sclerosis has been shown to ease symptoms of Ebola disease.

To date, no treatments or post-exposure prophylaxis are available for Ebola although clinical trials for several vaccines are in various phases, with promising published results in humans.

Since there is no vaccine or specific approved treatment for Ebola virus disease (EVD), there is a "moral obligation" to collect and share all data generated, to understand the safety and efficacy of any intervention, and to evaluate promising interventions to inform future research, said senior author Dr. Eleanor Fish from Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI).

Nine individuals with Ebola virus were treated with Interferon beta-1a, and compared retrospectively with a matched cohort of 21 infected individuals receiving standardized supportive care only during the same time period at the same treatment centre in Guinea, West Africa from March 26, 2015 to June 12, 2015.

When compared to patients who received supportive treatment only, 67 per cent of the interferon-treated patients were still alive at 21 days in contrast to 19 per cent of the former patients. Additionally, the viral blood clearance was faster in those patients treated with Interferon beta-1a. Many clinical symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea were also relieved earlier in the interferon-treated patients.

A further 17 patients in other Guinean treatment centres who matched the interferon-treated patients based on age and the amount of Ebola virus in their blood were included in the analysis.

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

"Despite the limitations of a single arm, non-randomized study, we infer from these data that Interferon beta-1a treatment is worth further consideration for the treatment of Ebola virus disease," said Fish.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in 2014-15 a public health emergency of international concerns and it is the largest outbreak to date. More than 11,000 people were killed during the outbreak, mainly affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The study entitled, 'Interferon ß-1a for the treatment of Ebola virus disease: A historically controlled, single-arm proof of concept trial' has been published in PLoS One, a high-impact journal which is freely and immediately available to everyone.

This material was created specially for WorldHealthNews project by David Greeley.

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