An experimental drug saved the lives of 16 of 16 monkeys with the Marburg virus, a killer near-indistinguishable from Ebola, just as symptoms broke out, said a new study.
Thomas Geisbert, senior author of the new Science Translational Medicine study, said treatment with an siRNA molecule, wrapped in a lipid nanoparticle, saved macaque monkeys even when administered on Day 3 post-infection, when animals began showing symptoms. All control animals who did not receive the Tekmira drug— TKM Marburg— died between days seven and nine. SiRNA keeps the virus from replicating by binding to messenger RNA.
Geisbert, a University of Texas microbiologist, said at a press conference that this is the first time one drug saved animals from Marburg days after the virus infected them. Right now, the only way to detect a Marburg or Ebola infection in humans is to wait several days, until the virus reaches detectable blood levels. A similar drug by the same company— TKM Ebola— has been found to work on monkeys when given 30 minutes post-infection.
On Aug. 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the current Ebola/Marburg emergency in Africa warrants the use of these experimental drugs, without further trials, when/as needed. “I would have no problems taking this product myself,” Geisbert said.