Drug trials begin as Ebola plays hide-and-seek

时间:2019-03-05 01:03:04166网络整理admin

DESPERATE times call for desperate measures. A British nurse, Pauline Cafferkey, remained in critical condition as we went to press this week, after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone. She is being treated with plasma from a former Ebola patient, which is packed with antibodies to the virus, and an unidentified experimental drug. She is a high-profile case, but by no means the only person being treated with candidate drugs: trials of two experimental drugs have now started among Ebola patients in Liberia and Guinea, and the third will start being organised in Sierra Leone next week. This will involve the first-ever RNA-based drug to be tested against an infection in humans. The drug, made by Canadian firm Tekmira, is a “short interfering” RNA (siRNA), designed to stop a key virus gene from working. With US military funding, Tekmira has developed stable nanoparticles of fats and siRNA that stop the Ebola virus from replicating by blocking a specific gene. Intravenous doses starting half an hour after infection saved monkeys from lethal infections. Tekmira announced on 22 December that it would carry out human trials in West Africa with siRNA specifically matched to the epidemic strain. Peter Horby of the University of Oxford is leading the Liberia trial of a conventional antiviral, brincidofovir. That began on 1 January in Monrovia, previously a hotspot for the epidemic. Now, though, control efforts in the city are working, and it might be hard to find the 140 patients needed. “Because control efforts in Monrovia are working, it might be hard to find 140 patients for the drug trial” “This is good news, but we also have to move fast to test these drugs,” says Horby. He is helping set up the Tekmira trial and will look out for further test sites in Sierra Leone. They will still be needed: