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Medicine The Military Science

Possible Treatment For Ebola 157

Posted by samzenpus
from the there's-a-pill-for-that dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Researchers at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases have found a class of drugs that could provide treatment for Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. The new drugs are called 'antisense' compounds, and they allow the immune system to attack the viruses before they can do enough damage to kill the patient. Travis Warren, research scientist at USAMRIID, said while the work is still preliminary -— the drugs have been tested only on primates — the results are so far promising. In the case of Ebola, five of eight monkeys infected with the virus lived, and with Marburg, all survived. The drugs were developed as part of a program to deal with possible bioterrorist threats, in partnership with AVI Biopharma."
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Possible Treatment For Ebola

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  • Outbreak rentals just dropped to zero
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:04PM (#33375586)
    ... but how on earth will the people affected by these diseases get these drugs in time once they are sick? We can't even get decent distribution of (somewhat) affordable malaria drugs to the parts of the world that need it. This will be just one more cure for a disease that is defeated by poverty and corruption in parts of the world that can't afford any more of either.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      Perhaps the priority should be more focused on dealing with corruption and poverty in the first place. For example. The UN will address the symptoms with food and aid, but will never address the problem of dictatorships and warlords that cause this poverty and corruption.

      Don't be surprised though. Western civilization has lost its resolve a long time ago. As an American, I really wish the British Empire never dissolved.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:25PM (#33375820)

        The UN will address the symptoms with food and aid, but will never address the problem of dictatorships and warlords that cause this poverty and corruption.

        The U.N. doesn't have any way to deal with dictatorships and warlords, since most of them are members in good standing of the U.N. If you were to expel all the nations with disfunctional governments from the U.N., it would look a lot like NATO (plus Japan and India)...

        As an American, I really wish the British Empire never dissolved.

        So, basically you wish that the British were still around to do all the things you say rude things about the Americans doing? Or do you somehow imagine that the British ruled their Empire without fighting in third-world hellholes pretty regularly?

        • by sjames (1099)

          The U.N. doesn't have any way to deal with dictatorships and warlords, since most of them are members in good standing of the U.N. If you were to expel all the nations with disfunctional governments from the U.N., it would look a lot like NATO (plus Japan and India)...

          Dysfunctional but well meaning governments can be fixed. It's the corrupt governments run for the benefit of the leader and his cronies only that should be expelled if they refuse to change (and they will refuse). When you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.

          • It's the corrupt governments run for the benefit of the leader and his cronies only that should be expelled if they refuse to change (and they will refuse).

            The only way to expel someone from the U.N. is by majority vote of the U.N. General Assembly. Since the majority of the governments in that body fit within the definition of "corrupt governments run for the benefit of the leader and his cronies", it's not terribly likely that your fantasy will come to pass.

            The only real solution to the U.N. is to disso

      • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @10:54PM (#33377166) Journal

        The UN will address the symptoms with food and aid, but will never address the problem of dictatorships and warlords that cause this poverty and corruption.

        That's because the UN was set up to help provide a way to prevent wars between nations. As long as a dictator is only starving his own people, the UN has no reason to get involved. It sucks, but the alternative is to have the UN turn into a one-world government, which could present its own set of challenges.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:17PM (#33375748) Journal
      While it may not be practical on the bulk of Ebola patients, there are a number of people who contract the disease and then travel to other countries and spread it. However, this isn't necessarily about Ebola. This is a new class of disease fighting agents: anti-sense drugs. They work by slowing down a virus's reproductive rate to the point where the body's defenses gain the advantage. It could work against influenza strains, SARS, Lassa and Dengue fever, and a host of other viral infections.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by stonewallred (1465497)
        And how long before every idiot doctor starts prescribing these drugs and cause them to be just as ineffective as the anti_TB drugs are now? TB kills not only the poor in 3rd countries, it has been steadily increasing in the US prison populations and killing prison guards. Not just prisoners, but guards. Who do have health insurance, who do seek and receive treatment and who are still dying. Fuck elbola, it kills very few people every year. A minute number. TB is killing Americans. Let's cure that first.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by kyriosdelis (1100427)
          Assuming, by their name (anti-sense) that these drugs take advantage of the RNA-interference [wikipedia.org] pathway, the molecules used, short interfering RNA (siRNA) don't need to have a 100% specific match to a messenger RNA (mRNA) in order to silence it. When the match is 100%, then the viral mRNA is cleaved (by means of a complex called RISC), and there is no chance of it translating into protein, whereas non-perfect matches don't result in RNA cleavage, but at the same time still block the enzymes that perform the tr
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Fuck elbola, it kills very few people every year. A minute number. TB is killing Americans. Let's cure that first.

          Because the US, as a nation of 300,000,000 people, doesn't have the resources to fight more than one disease at a time?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by adolf (21054)

          Better idea: Let's stop imprisoning so many people.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by camperdave (969942)
          TB is killing Americans. Let's cure that first.

          What's so special about Americans that we should be curing their diseases first?
    • by Enry (630) <.enry. .at. .wayga.net.> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:18PM (#33375756) Journal

      Ebola only occurs in one part of the world unlike malaria, so you could stockpile them with an NGO like WHO to take with them when an outbreak occurs.

      • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:38PM (#33375930)
        You might want to look at the list of known Ebola outbreaks [cdc.gov] before you determine where to site your stockpile.
        • by Enry (630) <.enry. .at. .wayga.net.> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:55PM (#33376044) Journal

          Ebola-Reston is different than Ebola-Zaire. The Reston strain isn't deadly to humans (so far), so stockpile can be in/near central Africa since that's where most of the Zaire cases were.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jbeaupre (752124)

            Ebola-Reston is unique another way: airborne transmission. No humans have died so far, but we can't yet rule out a .1% or 1% mortality rate (over 80% chance a 1% mortality rate is undetected). Heck, with 20 exposed people surviving, there's potentially a 1/3 chance of a 5% mortality going undetected.

            Airborne and with the potential for killing millions, yeah, might as well stockpile a little bit in the Philippines just in case.

      • Ebola only occurs in one part of the world unlike malaria

        Except that's not true [stanford.edu]. Here's a table of known cases of ebola outbreaks [cdc.gov] published by the CDC. In 1976 there was one in England. In the US the first one was in 1989. Other countries with outbreaks not in Africa is Italy and the Philippines.

        Falcon

        • by Enry (630)

          I've already addressed that elsewhere. Ebola-Reston is the primary strain that occurs outside Africa yet is not harmful to humans. It's still important to track, but as for a treatment, the other strains like Ebola-Zaire are the concern.

      • by will_die (586523)
        Except the fear, and the reason the money was spend on a low killing virus, was that it would be weaponized and us in North America and Europe.
    • by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@NOsPaM.digitalfreaks.org> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:24PM (#33375814)
      Note: "possible bioterrorist threats"

      This isn't meant to help poor third-world countries, or to deal with natural outbreaks. The concerns you express were never part of the project's goals.

      (Not saying that's a good thing; just saying that that's what it is.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enry (630)

        I dunno about that. We really dodged a bullet with the Reston strain. There's no reason it could mutate again and become airborne and lethal.

      • Note: "possible bioterrorist threats"

        This isn't meant to help poor third-world countries, or to deal with natural outbreaks. The concerns you express were never part of the project's goals.

        (Not saying that's a good thing; just saying that that's what it is.)

        I absolutely hate that your answer true, but you are 100% correct. Damn, what a world it's become.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Note: "possible bioterrorist threats"

        This isn't meant to help poor third-world countries, or to deal with natural outbreaks. The concerns you express were never part of the project's goals.

        No money in helping poor African nations but there's plenty of profit in making rich, lazy and ignorant first world nations scared of a non-existent bogeyman.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Muad'Dave (255648)

          No, the purpose of this therapy, as developed by The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, is to keep US troops safe from infection should some whackjob decide to use Ebola, etc as an aerosolized biological weapon. Did you RTFA?

          Certainly there will be civilian uses for such a treatment, but that's not what this research is about.

          If you feel so strongly about helping "poor African nations", start a campaign to fund stockpiles of this drug when it makes it out of the research phase. Sin

      • Force Protection. This is meant to keep the troopers in foreign lands healthy. Civilians need not bother to apply.
    • by TopSpin (753) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:29PM (#33375860) Journal

      how on earth will the people affected by these diseases get these drugs in time

      Don't think like an ambulance driver. If some part of the world is attacked with ebola people will be killed. The response will then be to manufacture and deploy the 'antidote' to the contaminated area and other areas that might also be at risk of attack. Meanwhile the attackers get hunted down, with prejudice, as the saying goes.

      one more cure for a disease that is defeated by poverty and corruption

      All the good intentions in the world are doomed in the face of corruption, of which poverty is only the most obvious symptom. A solution is not invalid only because it requires more sophistication than can exist in corrupt and impoverished places. When it's your butt on the line you aren't going to walk away from the fix just because the Congolese don't have the option. You will demand it as a right and curse anyone that fails to agree.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:34PM (#33375898)

      They'll have it for "critical personnel," AKA not you or I, and certainly not the people who would actually be encountering ebola.

      That said, I don't know much about this antisense treatment, but it seems to be based on oligonucleotides, short DNA sequences. Oligos aren't too expensive, have a long shelf life (for my applications anyway) and when dehydrated can be stored at room temperature for quite a while. If antisense therapy works for a wide variety of viruses, it could make sense for large cities and major international airports to have a "toolkit" of antisense oligos ready to go for a variety of outbreaks, and this wouldn't be too expensive to maintain. If ebola entered the network of airports and large outbreaks started, you could have the therapy right there. Influenza? Same thing.

      But with ebola, the time you have is extremely short, and if an outbreak happened in a large city, I doubt anything could be deployed soon enough. And there's no way cities are going to spend the money to keep enough to dose everyone on hand. And that still wouldn't help the populations in Africa who would be exposed first.

      By the way, I find it somewhat strange that "terrorism" is mentioned as a reason here. I guess it's possible that terrorists have biological safety cabinets and autoclaves, and certainly it's dangerous to underestimate terror threats, but I'm imagining Osama bin Laden saying "Lets get some of this Ebola." Terrorist lackey number one obtains a jar of infected blood, hands it to Osama without gloves, and two days later they're all bleeding to death from every orifice.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "By the way, I find it somewhat strange that "terrorism" is mentioned as a reason here."

        I don't. Weaponisation of both agents was a concern many years ago, and mentioned routinely in military NBC training.

        • I should be clear, I can see the hazard, certainly. I am, however, having a hard time picturing the terrorists we're all focusing on right now doing anything more than killing themselves painfully with Ebola.

          Were North Korea to get their hands on Ebola, sure, they're crazy enough to use it to wipe the rest of the world out, and there are probably individuals who would be willing and capable of deploying Ebola. I was merely making some gallows humor.

          • They already kill themselves with bombs. It's plausible that some of them may be willing to risk this kind of death in order to inflict it upon others.

            Not quite as spectacular as a suicide bombing, but it would still have a very chilling effect.

      • by sjames (1099)

        By the way, I find it somewhat strange that "terrorism" is mentioned as a reason here. I guess it's possible that terrorists have biological safety cabinets and autoclaves, and certainly it's dangerous to underestimate terror threats, but I'm imagining Osama bin Laden saying "Lets get some of this Ebola." Terrorist lackey number one obtains a jar of infected blood, hands it to Osama without gloves, and two days later they're all bleeding to death from every orifice.

        If the terrorists tried to develop biological weapons, we might finally be rid of them. It's unfortunate an uncontrollable number of innocents would go with them, otherwise it might be worth encouraging them to try.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm assuming that the developers have no plan for that. Either because they view it as somebody else's problem, or because they just don't care.

      The "U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases" isn't exactly the Peace Corps. They probably wouldn't object if the UN or some NGO wanted to buy a bunch of doses for people where hemorrhagic fevers are endemic; this sure isn't being announced like it is some sort of national secret; but I assume that their interest in doing the research is in ad
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Your point about poverty and corruption defeating cures and treatments is valid, but is perhaps not entirely applicable to Ebola and Marburg. Both of these viruses are zoonoses, that is, they are transmitted to humans from other animals. We do not know for certain which animals are the natural reservoirs of Filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg are the two genera of the Filoviridae), but an incident in the Philippines in 2009 where Ebola infected swine illustrates that cosmopolitan animals (like pigs) can carry
    • by Redlazer (786403)
      You're probably right - we should just stop looking for answers, and give up.
    • by sjames (1099)

      Oh! Did you think it was for them? Nah, they'll make enough for each world leader to have so they can feel important.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "This will be just one more cure for a disease that is defeated by poverty and corruption in parts of the world that can't afford any more of either."

      Failure is part of the human condition. That doesn't negate advances in medicine, it just means they won't be as available to area where the humans who run things make bad decisions.

  • E-1101 (Score:3, Funny)

    by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:05PM (#33375594) Journal
    I guess they just pulled some E-1101 [imdb.com] out of the freezer.
  • Great (Score:3, Funny)

    by Beardydog (716221) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:11PM (#33375664)
    Now what am I supposed to wish upon my enemies?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:20PM (#33375784)

    This, right here, is an example of the correct priorities for anti-terrorism funding.

    It's much harder to cure someone who has been blown up by a bomb, I realize that. But, things like this, and harmonizing emergency radio systems, and subsidized first aid, and other sensible measures that should be done anyway but aren't only as a pure factor of economic reality, they are the first things that should be in line for funding that truly saves lives and makes people safer; and they work equally well for terrorism, natural disasters, negligent officials, and plain bad luck (unlike most anti-terrorism programs which look impressive but are essentially military in nature).

    Bruce Schneier has said the same thing for about as long. But still you've got sheriffs buying robotic sentry cannons and military research into autonomous robotic assassins. It's only lucky that, like the space program, the benefits do eventually trickle down to private industry and then to the general population. But it could still be better spent in the first place, for more immediate effect.

    So, what are the chances of this actually being supplied to "unimportant" people (ie. foreign countries), for fear of bioterrorist chemists engineering resistant strains?

    • by mr_mischief (456295) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:24PM (#33375804) Journal

      IMO first aid should be a required class beginning in about the 6th grade, right along with household and small business microeconomics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cmiller173 (641510)
        Couldn't agree more. In sixth grade I took a 4-part Red Cross first aid course as an after school program.would have been 1977-1978 or so. Planning to find something similar for my daughter next summer weather it's through school or not.
        • by Inda (580031)
          I did something similar 20 years ago. Thank the FSM that I've never needed to use my first aid skills.

          I enquired recently to local childrens first aid club via their online contact form on behalf of my daughter. She loves playing with bandages (see internet photos of me wrapped up like a mummy). The reply I received was:

          WHO'S ASKING? WHY DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHERE AND WHEN THE CLUB IS HELD? ARE YOU SOME SORT OF FUCKING PEADO SCUMBAG?

          OK, I made the last sentence up but it was the tone of the reply. What has t
      • IMO first aid should be a required class beginning in about the 6th grade, right along with household and small business microeconomics.

        You might be interested in Ariel Community Academy [wikipedia.org], a school in Chicagoland. In it students, K to 8th grade, are taught to invest [edutopia.org]. Students "in grades K-8 hone math skills and learn practical, lifelong lessons in finance by managing a $20,000 class stock portfolio."

        Falcon

      • In Kansas they'd learn faith healing and Von Mises economics :P

      • by sjames (1099)

        Fully agreed! First aid and some basic survival skills would do more to alleviate the effects of disasters, both natural and man made, than all of the expensive and dubious measures DHS wants to take.

        I don't expect people to know how to perform bypass surgery with a push pin and a bottle of whiskey or be able to skin a bear with their teeth, but knowing how to handle sprains, dislocations, broken bones, burns, lacerations etc including improvised antiseptic measures like honey dressings would go a very long

        • These days a medical card and the sniffles land many people in the ER, because nobody with access to public pursestrings seems to understand the benefits of prevention.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Yes, that and history and logic.

        But who is interested in teaching those subjects to the plebes who are only useful as cannon fodder and as part of a crowd gathering to get some talking head talking points around without giving the content too much thought?

  • Primates (Score:3, Informative)

    by markdavis (642305) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:37PM (#33375928)

    "said while the work is still preliminary - the drugs have been tested only on primates"

    Last time I checked, Humans are primates...

    • Last time I checked, Humans are primates...

      That can't be right. I'm sure I've seen a human lawyer at the zoo.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by alanebro (1808492)
      Humans are animals. However, the term "animals" is generally used to describe all animals EXCEPT us. Rinse and repeat for your example.
  • by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @08:17PM (#33376230)

    Researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases have found a class of drugs that could provide treatment for Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever.

    Is this going to be another example of government spending hundreds of Hundreds Millions of Taxpayer Dollars developing a drug only to give it away exclusively to a pharmaceutical business who can then make billions of dollars on the drug if there's an outbreak? That is exactly what the National Cancer Institute [wikipedia.org] or NCI, part of the US federal government's National Institutes of Health [wikipedia.org] did. The NCI spent more than $484 Million [pdf] [gao.gov] developing and testing Taxol [wikipedia.org] as a breast cancer drug. The NCI then gave Bristol-Myers Squibb, BMS, exclusive rights to its use. What did BMS pay for those rights? BMS paid $35 Million in royalty payments through 2002. BMS had those exclusive rights for more than 10 years. Guess how much BMS sold Taxol for... In 2000 BMS sold $1.6 Billion, earning between $4 and $5 Million [cptech.org] a day.

    Falcon

    • I'm not sure about this, but I'd consider adding the amount paid directly ($35 million, as you state) to the amount collected in tax revenues from the sales of the drug as well. Not the sales taxes, or the income taxes from the jobs created, but the corporate taxes paid, as they directly relate to those sales. That's a more accurate figure of what BMS gave the government.
      • I'm not sure about this, but I'd consider adding the amount paid directly ($35 million, as you state) to the amount collected in tax revenues from the sales of the drug as well. Not the sales taxes, or the income taxes from the jobs created, but the corporate taxes paid, as they directly relate to those sales. That's a more accurate figure of what BMS gave the government.

        Those sells were world wide not just in the US, and businesses don't pay income tax on all of that. And what jobs? The jobs at the NCI?

        • Then you take the taxes paid on the sales in the US. Either way, the figure is important. It could be sold at $35 million as a down payment, with the agency expecting to recoup the investment only if the drug turns out to be viable to bring to market.

          Also, if you think the processes for making any drug are exactly the same between research quantity and market quantity, you're sorely mistaken. There's engineering jobs to be had converting those processes from small scale to the large scale, and "manufacturin

    • by VShael (62735)

      It's not socialism, if the money flows upwards, and if the rich man's bill is split across the tax payers.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      At what point was the drug bought, and how much did BMS pay for other compounds that didn't work out?

      These kinds of royalty payments aren't unusual if a compound is bought before it has gone through any kinds of trials. If that sum was paid after Phase III trials were complete then of course they managed to get some kind of back room deal.

      The reason that compounds are cheap before trials is that most of them turn out not to work. Google for headlines about pharmaceutical companies buying the rights to dru

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The NIH is all bad and listening to your government's advice on health is just another way of failing to comprehend history, at least if you live in the USA. They also spent hundreds of millions in taxpayer money trying to prove that eating fat made you fat. The closest they could come was a study which showed that taking drugs to reduce your cholesterol reduced your risk of heart disease. On the basis of this study the USDA built a food pyramid suggesting that you avoid fats and choke down metric fucktons

  • For me, the fact that a treatment that gives a 60% survival rate is considered a major breakthrough only underscores the fact that Ebola is terrifyingly dangerous, and it's just a few mutations from being real trouble.

    If you enjoy being frightened, give Richard Preston's The Hot Zone [amazon.com] a read.

  • Military is where the money is, where the magically-cuts-through-red-tape national-security rationale is most available.
    Seems like reasonable means to a good end though, in cases like this.

  • Ebola (Score:4, Funny)

    by funkify (749441) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @09:38PM (#33376744)

    There once was a man from Angola
    Who contracted a case of Ebola.
    He puked out his guts,
    Not excluding his nuts,
    Then died as he cried out, "Ricola!"

  • Antisense? Makes no sense at all...
    • by kid_wonder (21480)

      I remember this "antisense" stuff from probably 15 years ago. It was the hot pharma back then and there were probably 5-10 companies that went public over the hype of this new drug "technology".

      I was actually a little shocked that someone had got it to work. From what I recall it is a targeted drug based on DNA of the target. It sounded very promising, but for some reason it never actually worked all that well. I think it was because you had to shove so much of the drug in that the side effects were pretty

    • by kid_wonder (21480)

      Here is a good link describing how antisense works:

      Antisense Drug Discovery Platform [isip.com]

  • but what was the mortality in the control group?

  • ... of the clinical trials.

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