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Medicine The Military Science

Possible Treatment For Ebola 157

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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  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by Relic of the Future ( 118669 ) <dales@digitalfre ... org minus distro> 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.)

  • 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 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.

  • Re:Primates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by alanebro ( 1808492 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @07:53PM (#33376036)
    Humans are animals. However, the term "animals" is generally used to describe all animals EXCEPT us. Rinse and repeat for your example.
  • by stonewallred ( 1465497 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @08:06PM (#33376142)
    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.
  • by cmiller173 ( 641510 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @08:08PM (#33376158)
    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 YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @08:35PM (#33376354)
    Most of those corrupt and poor countries were fine until a little thing called American Foreign Policy was introduced to them and their neighbors.

    That's some funny shit right there.
    Misguided and wrong, but funny.
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @08:38PM (#33376378) Journal

    Well, you can blame the US for South & Central America problems sure. Long history of involvement there. But Africa? When were any African Nations "doing just fine" meaning "not suffering from being poor and not having dictators"?

    Note: I'm not saying American Forien Policy has always been the best for African nations, but were the countries really ever OK? Go back before we were involved and you run into the Colonial rule. Which ( with the exception of Liberia), was mostly European in nature.

  • by Darth_brooks ( 180756 ) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <773reppilc>> on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @09:46PM (#33376788) Homepage

    but an incident in the Philippines in 2009 where Ebola infected swine illustrates that cosmopolitan animals (like pigs) can carry the virus.

    Pigs are hardly cosmopolitan animals. In fact, the last pig I encountered was downright boarish.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @09:55PM (#33376848)

    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:Bioterrorism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @10:03PM (#33376896) Homepage

    Only pneumonic plague spreads very quickly, the bubonic kind doesn't. But more to the point, anyone descended from European or Middle Eastern ancestry has a pretty solid level of genetic resistance to plague. It's not the killer today that it was in the 14th century, even without antibiotics -- the vulnerable population died out.

    So no, Yersinia pestis isn't going to be that effective.

  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) <{corbettw} {at} {yahoo.com}> 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 adolf ( 21054 ) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:26AM (#33377616) Journal

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

  • by cdtbqiot ( 1088875 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:56AM (#33377768)

    but what was the mortality in the control group?

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @09:43AM (#33380454) Homepage

    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. Since it was developed by the US government, I'd hope you would be able to get the right to manufacture license-free, since We The People(tm) funded the research.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @10:22AM (#33380938) Journal
    TB is killing Americans. Let's cure that first.

    What's so special about Americans that we should be curing their diseases first?
  • Re:Netflix Called (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday August 26, 2010 @12:17PM (#33382268)

    It makes sense to come up with a cure (vaccine) for Malaria because of so many people in third-world countries who come down with it. Sure, there aren't many first-world countries where you'll get it, but you'd want to vaccinate people around hot spots or disease reservoirs. Also, remember that just because someone is on the other side of the world, that doesn't mean they can't be in your population center in under 24 hours on an international flight. The world has gotten much smaller, and disease can spread much faster.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"