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Scientists Report Progress Toward New Ebola Drugs

By    |   Wednesday, 08 October 2014 04:16 PM

As drug companies race to test new drugs that can effectively treat Ebola, University of Utah biochemists are reporting an advance that could speed the development of new antivirals to combat the virus.

According to a study published in this week's online edition of Protein Science, the researchers have produced a molecule — known as a peptide mimic — that is associated with a critical region of the virus that could be targeted by new anti-Ebola drug agents.

The biochemists said the findings could pave the way for new medications that are not only effective against all known strains of Ebola, but future strains, as well.

The peptide designed by the Utah scientists, whose work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, mimics a region in the Ebola virus that controls how it enters and infects human cells. The advance could allow scientists to rapidly identify potential new effective drugs from billions of possible candidates.

Current experimental drugs generally target only one of Ebola's five existing species.

"The current growing epidemic demonstrates the need for effective broad-range Ebola virus therapies," said lead researcher Tracy R. Clinton, M.D. "Importantly, viral sequence information from the epidemic reveals rapid changes in the viral genome, while our target sequence remains the same. Therefore, our target will enable the discovery of drugs with the potential to treat any future epidemic, even if new Ebola virus strains emerge."

There are five known Ebola strains, including the Zaire Ebola strain at the center of the West African outbreak. The virus has been responsible for periodic outbreaks that have been occurring with increasing frequency in recent years.

"Although the current push of clinical trials will hopefully lead to an effective treatment for the Zaire species causing the present epidemic, the same treatments are unlikely to be effective against future outbreaks of a different or new Ebola species,” said researcher Debra Eckert. “Development of a broadly acting therapy is an important long-term goal that would allow cost-effective stockpiling of a universal Ebola treatment."

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Utah biochemists are reporting an advance that could speed the development of new antivirals to combat the Ebola virus.
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Wednesday, 08 October 2014 04:16 PM
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