Ebola is a virus that has one of the highest death rates of any known disease. Of those who are infected, some ninety percent will not survive. The disease is characterized by flu like symptoms, excessive bleeding from bodily orifices, hemorrhaging, organ failure, and (ultimately) death. Fortunately, Ebola is not so easily spread. To contract it, you need to come into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. Moreover, this disease has been mostly restricted to localized parts of Africa, as lack of roads restricts an infected person’s ability to travel and spread the disease. Moreover, areas that have infected individual are subject to strict quarantine.
That said, this is our only defense—quarantine and travel restrictions. There is no vaccine and no cure.
Or at least, there wasn’t. However, in an article published this week in Nature, researchers that were working in Fort Detrick in Maryland announced that they may have found a potential cure. The scientists have discovered a molecule that can be used to stop the virus (and other viruses in the same family) in its tracks. This molecule is so effective because it looks a lot like the “A” that makes up DNA: adenosine. The molecule is called ” BCX4430,” and since it looks so much like Adenosine, viruses like Ebola can accidentally use it as a building block when trying to grow inside our cells. Ultimately, this is fantastic news for us (not so fantastic for the virus) as the use of this molecule blocks the virus’ growth and reproduction (effectively stopping the virus).
In the study, the team gave Macaque monkeys infected with a disease similar to Ebola two doses for BCX4430 a day for 14 days. The results were very promising. The monkeys who weren’t given the treatment were dead by day 12, whereas all but one monkey who was given BCX4430 survived. What’s more, this molecule could open the door to potential cures for similar viruses, like SARS, influenza, measles, and dengue.
There haven’t been any human trials yet, but this is an astounding step forward.