Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Biotech News Science

New Ebola Drug 100% Effective In Monkeys 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the quick-somebody-call-hoffman dept.
TrisexualPuppy writes "A team of scientists at Boston University has created a cure for the Ebola virus, first discovered in 1976. After setting the correct dosages, all monkeys tested with the vaccine survived with only mild effects. No tests have been performed on humans yet, as outbreaks happen infrequently and are difficult to track. Quoting NPR: '[The drug] contains snippets of RNA derived from three of the virus's seven genes. That "payload" is packaged in protective packets of nucleic acid and fat molecules. These little stealth missiles attach to the Ebola virus's replication machinery, "silencing" the genes from which they were derived. That prevents the virus from making more viruses.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Ebola Drug 100% Effective In Monkeys

Comments Filter:
  • Remember (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:41AM (#32396484)
    This does not mean you can eschew the use of a condom when fucking monkeys.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      Ebola [wikipedia.org]

  • who's up?
  • by eexaa (1252378) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:56AM (#32396580) Homepage

    ...wouldn't this be a great generic treatment for all infections by viruses?

    If not, I'd like to know the reason.

    • Because perhaps the reproduction genes of other viruses don't function in the same fashion, and thus cannot be attacked in this way? That's what comes to mind first.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      It sounds similar to Phage Therapy [wikipedia.org], long story short you have to identify and isolate the virus in question before you can treat it, because there are so many variants of most viruses you need tons of phages to treat what we the masses think of as a single virus. If Ebola doesn't change too much, or if they found critical parts of Ebola that never change between variants, it might be possible to attack those, but targeted approaches don't work against disparate viruses.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)

        It sounds similar to Phage Therapy [wikipedia.org], long story short you have to identify and isolate the virus in question before you can treat it, because there are so many variants of most viruses you need tons of phages to treat what we the masses think of as a single virus. If Ebola doesn't change too much, or if they found critical parts of Ebola that never change between variants, it might be possible to attack those, but targeted approaches don't work against disparate viruses.

        What if one day we'll be able to synthesize a therapy while the patient is waiting in the waiting room? Just consider the leaps in DNA sequencing. Once a tedious manual process where we were lucky to decipher a few dozen nucleotides in a row, now a technology with the prospect of sequencing a person's whole DNA for a few dozen bucks. (I admit that I'm not aware of the precise state of the art today.) A century from now - if our civilization won't collapse in the meantime - we might be able to synthesize a v

        • by dookiesan (600840)
          There's hope it can be brought down to a few hundred dollars soon, but sequencing a new human genome currently costs several thousand dollars.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Sequencing a virus ought to cost dramatically less, but first you have to identify the culprit. So while antibiotics and antivirals are only effective some of the time, any asshole can cycle through 'em until they find something that works, without having to know what illness is responsible... most of the time. Phage therapy requires that every doctor be highly skilled, which would be nice.

        • by mutube (981006)

          What if one day we'll be able to synthesize a therapy while the patient is waiting in the waiting room?

          The problem is the wide variation in viruses even within a single host. Even if you can synthesize a therapy against the most common form in a host, those that are not suppressed will take dominance (as with any drug resistance). The ideal solution, and what will hopefully happen in the future, is the ability to initiate therapy with multiple target drugs to effectively corner the virus out of viability -

    • by nashv (1479253) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:28AM (#32396746) Homepage
      The method with which the "drug" works is called RNA intereference [wikipedia.org]. RNAi is more or less a standard method in molecular laboratories. Unfortunately, the efficacy of RNAi in different cells and for different proteins varies a lot, for reasons that are poorly understood. Further, RNA is rather unstable in water, and delivering substantial doses of RNA to cells in an organism has remainded challenging.

      Morever, all viruses do not start with an RNA-based genome. Some DNA based viruses use promoters for their genes that cause very strong expression of the genes, like the CMV promoter [PDF alert] [wjgnet.com], which is used in isolation to create "over expression" in molecular biology. RNAi is typically very poor against such strong promoters.

      Ebola is a virus that is relatively slow replicating in the initial stages. It is not a particularly ingenious design as compared to say the flu virus. This gives the RNAi a chance to work against it.

      In short, I don't want to say _never_ (that'll just be ignorant), but as yet, RNAi needs a lot of research and is perhaps not the best strategy for all viruses.

    • by mutube (981006)

      Viruses that integrate into the genome of host cells would likely not be removed by this mechanism. It may be possible to inhibit the virus enough to prevent spread between cells, but persistence down cell lineages may mean lifetime treatment is required. That said, if we can suppress replication enough to prevent onward transmission eradication would be the result.

  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <abacaxi@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:07AM (#32396634)
    Before you start declaring a CURE!!! look at the number of test subjects. Preventing death in five monkeys is not exactly a cure. It's a very promising start, but they need to test it in non-infected humans to make sure it's not going to cause some odd problems and to get max dosages worked out.

    Ebola's death rate is so high that this treatment would have to be extremely dangerous to keep it form being used. Death rates are in the 80-90% range now, so if it dropped them to even just 50% it's worth a large risk.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Five monkey more than you've cured.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ebola has 90% mortality rate, if 5 monkeys survived without much hiccup then we can be very confident the stuff is working.

      the lead scientist guy:
      http://www.bumc.bu.edu/microbiology/research-and-research-themes/faculty-and-their-research/thomas-w-geisbert/

      looks like this year's Nobel entrant.

    • by yargnad (1456405)
      Um, do the maths. 100% effective in five monkeys scales out to 100% effective in 5 million monkeys in my arithmetic book. But then again my books are published in Texas....
      • by pz (113803)

        Um, do the maths. 100% effective in five monkeys scales out to 100% effective in 5 million monkeys in my arithmetic book. But then again my books are published in Texas....

        This is a standard EE/CS/engineering view where everything is deterministic, or very nearly so.

        As an EE-turned-biologist, one of the big things I had to get my head around is that like it or not, Biology is messy. Very messy. Whereas in Engineering, models that are accurate to 1% are considered adequate, and 0.1% good, in Biology, models that are accurate to merely 50% are considered good, and above that is excellent. Biology is messy. There are many, many, many uncontrolled variables, most of which are

        • "It gives a good indication that this will be the case, but assuming that 100% of five can be extrapolated to mean 100% of any number in Biology is going to get you in a lot of trouble."

          I want to point out that he was being sarcastic, since I'm not sure if you picked up on that or not.

          The hint was the bit about Texas, which is well known for throwing around bunk science to push religious or political views.

          He basically said the same thing you did, just in a lot less space.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I refer everyone to XKCD and Extrapolation.
        http://xkcd.com/605/

        It saves time and protects folks that have insufficient education to see the sarcasm tags inherent in your comment.

    • by phoenix321 (734987) * on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:47AM (#32396880)

      A mortality rate of 80% of out 5 monkeys, 4 would have died. If 0 died in the vaccine group, it is a pretty significant finding.

      Maybe someone here can be bothered to draw up the exact significance, but I'm pretty sure it will be a percentage surprisingly high for a sample of 5 individuals, since the mortality is so high to begin with.

      For example with rabies, the mortality rate is a solid 100%. Managing to save even 1 infected individual is nothing short of a monumental achievement, as in all recorded history, we only have 3 survivors total, with Jeanna Giese being the first and the 2 others with the course derived from her treatment. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milwaukee_protocol [wikipedia.org] - so these 3 survivor make up a pretty high significance when compared to 0 before.

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Sunday May 30, 2010 @02:27PM (#32398796) Homepage Journal

        The p-value is 0.00032 by my off-the-cuff calculation (pbinom(0, 5, 0.8) in R.) So yeah, it's pretty significant. That being said, sample sizes this small still do tend to make people nervous -- the p-value is calculated assuming that the monkeys in question represent a good sample of the population, and doesn't account for lab-specific or family-specific effects. (Where were the monkeys bred? How closely are they related? What sub-population do they belong to? Etc.) So we can certainly accept the finding for what it is, but regulatory bodies will, with good reason, want to see larger animal trials before approving even limited human use.

        • Thanks for the calculation, you are of course right with the small population that is quite possible not really representative for all genotypes. Nonetheless, it's quite good against a deadly virus like this.

          • by timeOday (582209)
            My concern would be, "[The drug] contains snippets of RNA derived from three of the virus's seven genes," but how stable are those genes? The reason the flu virus often doesn't help is because there are so many different strains, they can't all be targeted at once with today's technology. You have to guess a year ahead of time which to target.
        • by EdIII (1114411)

          but regulatory bodies will, with good reason, want to see larger animal trials before approving even limited human use.

          With all due respect, fuck *that* and fuck *them*. The mortality rate of Ebola is very high and it is very fast acting. Minutes could literally make a difference in treatment.

          Considering the circumstances of finding somebody infected with Ebola and having a reasonable window for treatment I simply can't imagine a situation in which testing anything experimental was not the right thing to

          • I partially agree with you; I was a medic long I was a biostatistician, and in situations where the alternative to treatment -- any treatment -- is death, it's hard to argue for holding back.

            The thing is, what you say about the speed with which Ebola acts is exactly right, and it's a big part of the problem with any treatment for it. Are we supposed to manufacture large stocks of the medication, distribute it to areas where Ebola is prevalent, and take whatever measures are necessary to store it and train

      • by Ofloo (1378781)
        the weird thing is that every time the control monkey died. * The third one died, as did a control animal that didn't get the drug * The untreated control animal died. so basicly the drug works a 100% on monkeys, only though when the drug is administrated, on a monkey which isn't infected it dies, ..?
    • by JJJK (1029630)

      You are right, they still need to test it on humans - and the death rates really make the "cure" thing seem unimportant.

      But five monkeys aren't that few if you consider it was 30000 times the lethal dosage. Sounds to me like testing bomb-squad armor by dropping an atomic bomb on it - five times.

      I doubt that we'll see this being treated as the breakthrough that it is without calling it something that it isn't yet.

    • by syousef (465911)

      Before you start declaring a CURE!!! look at the number of test subjects. Preventing death in five monkeys is not exactly a cure.

      It was for those 5 monkeys. Yes it does not mean it would be 100% effective in 20,000 monkeys or 1 human but it's a hell of a start. But you're right about the story summary being sensationalist. What do you expect here though?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by izomiac (815208)
      At 85% mortality, the chance of all five monkeys surviving due to random chance would only be 15% ^ 5 = 0.0076%, which is well below the traditional alpha level of 5%. It'd take a mortality rate of 45% before you could say that, so for deadly diseases you don't need huge sample sizes to show effectiveness, though you would need a larger sample size to measure the size of the effect. The researchers have a very good claim that the treatment lowers the mortality rate of the tested strain of Ebola in monkeys
    • 100 Percent Effective

      Tsu Dho Nimh, your right! I was twitching as soon as I read that...give me a confidence interval instead, and maybe we will all sleep a little bit better at night!

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:16AM (#32396684)

    . . . and now, on BBC, "News for Parrots"

    "No parrots were injured in Ebola tests . . ."

  • derive cures for other viruses?

  • Because they could probably make more by keeping it under wraps and suing the crap out of anyone else who tries this...
  • Ban animal testing!! Oh wait.
  • Viruses and disease is a way for mother nature to keep the balance of life, by taking this away we risk the possibility of killing off our species even faster. I only hope that I live long enough to watch 90% of the human population die because of our stupidity even though I may die as well it will be epic...
    • by Ofloo (1378781)
      lets hear that when your child gets infected with something, you'll talk different.
  • by toppavak (943659)
    Since when does cure = vaccine?

    Actually, this is more of a cure and definitely a form of genetic therapy (although the genetic material isn't incorporated into the patient's genome). The scientists used RNAi in which sequences of RNA complementary to the viral RNA are injected into the patient. When the complementary sequences bind together, they activate innate cellular defenses [wikipedia.org] against double stranded RNA which destroy the genetic material, thus preventing the virus from replicating within the cell. If
  • How soon after you get infected would this treatment have to start? Also how soon into an ebola infection can you figure out it's ebola? Basically I'm wondering that because the scientists doing these tests know what the Monkeys are infected and can start anytime they want. I'd think delaying the treatment because of the diagnosis process would probably change the results.
    • The scientists behind the study are actually curious about the same thing:

      Of course, in the real world, people infected with Ebola might not get the drug within 30 minutes of infection like these monkeys did. So Geisbert is planning another set of experiments. "Can we go 24 hours or 48 hours or 72 hours before we start treatment?" he wondered. "Can we increase the window and still achieve 100 percent protection?"

      Personally, I find this fascinating and I'd be interested to see the results of their next experiments as well.

  • When administered, it kills the monkey instantly.

  • Correct me if I am wrong but one of Ebola's nasty features is its ability to mutate efficiently to offset its achilles heel. It's achilles heel is that it tends to kills its victims too quickly to adequately reproduce and spread itself. This might be why outbreaks are not long lasting but are particularly lethal.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      It can't be killing everything it infects quickly. Otherwise it would be extinct. What happens is it doesn't kill some animals/victims, they might get sick or be asymptomatic, and these carry it around. Current theory is fruit bats are one of the carriers.

      The same unmutated strain could keep on killing say 80% of humans who are exposed, so there is no pressure to mutate from there. Whether it mutates fast or not thus would depend more on the main carriers.
  • Qualifications: Must not be squeamish about seeing blood and be willing to play the odds.
  • by Reed Solomon (897367) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @01:01PM (#32397980) Homepage

    how many monkeys did they test? 12?

    • by cffrost (885375)

      [H]ow many monkeys did they test? 12?

      Science ain't an exact science with these clowns...

  • It's only 100% effective until the first successful mutation of the virus allows it to survive.

  • Tested population = 6 monkeys, but keep it in perspective.

    Still a great accomplishment.

  • Let's somehow keep this around, unlike coral snake anti-venom which is months away from being lost.

  • Speaking in terms of survival analysis:

    The reported overall survival probability for an Ebola patient is supposedly 10%. But how many people/animals naturally have an immunity to Ebola, therefore they got infected but had no symptoms, therefore they never knew it? Then the marginal probability of surviving an Ebola infection may be greater than 10%.

    Also, the survival probability changes over time depending on how long they were infected. An Ebola patient who has already survived, say, 5 days is more like

  • The poster is wrong to refer to the drug as a "vaccine". A vaccine works by stimulating the body's immune system to develop antibodies against the disease. This drug works by attacking the disease directly.

  • if the next monkey dies then the effectivity of this new cure drops to 80%. imho the topic title might be a little sensationalist. just sayin'
  • An unfortunate side effect was it made the monkeys very very angry and aggressive. Monkeys infected with this "Rage" are not to be approached, and if you are bitten a level 9 quarantine should be immediately put into effect. Currently the monkeys are being held in a minimum security facility "Econo-Labs" which is located right next door to Peta National headquarters. We will try making the monkeys watch FOX news, mostly because we are a bunch of dicks...

Lend money to a bad debtor and he will hate you.

Working...