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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.'"
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New Ebola Drug 100% Effective In Monkeys

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  • Re:first post? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrisexualPuppy (976893) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @09:50AM (#32396538)

    I don't think it was 30 years ago.

    Exactly. I talked with one of my contacts at the Atlanta CDC about this. She said that little was said at that point about exactly how they procured this method, but it is something possible only with new technologies that have evolved in the past decade. That, and the limited amount of manpower dedicated to such a project mean that unless you're really lucky, it's going to take the full 30 years.

    I wonder how many lives will eventually be saved and what awards will be gotten because of this.

  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <> 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:15AM (#32396674)

    Five monkey more than you've cured.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:22AM (#32396708)

    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:

    looks like this year's Nobel entrant.

  • Re:first post? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 30, 2010 @10:42AM (#32396832)

    Except that 2 weeks is not long to spread. AIDS kills so many because it takes so long to get to work.

  • 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. - [] - so these 3 survivor make up a pretty high significance when compared to 0 before.

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday May 30, 2010 @04:28PM (#32399862)

    OK, you've just said something that is nearly 100% true, but has almost no meaning outside of the context you've left out. RNA mutates just as DNA does, and is subject to selection in theory. So, an RNA based virus can evolve. But, there are important differences.
          1. Just about every gene in a virus is vital, as that same evolutionary pressure selects to weed out all the junk code at a much higher rate. The penalties a virus pays for hauling any gene not vitally needed are so big, it has to hijack something else's reproductive code to duplicate itself. So just about every mutation in the remaining code is seriously negative - positive mutations in 'advanced' organisms are rare, but for viruses they are literally millions of times rarer.
          2. RNA based organisms are all non-sexual reproducers, so there is no second copy of anything from chromosome pairing, to take up slack for any gene that gets damaged either. That probably further amplifies the effects of point 1.
          So, you get lots of mutation in viruses, but very little evolution because there are almost no positive selection events associated with that mutation. Scientists have even come up with the term Stochastic mutation to describe what some viruses do (HIV for one). In such cases, you get regular mutation at certain key points, but no essentially NO selection. HIV may eventually mutate in a fashion that is subject to selection pressure in the wild, but the four common stochastic mutations it displays won't be the path to any such changes.
            Overall, viruses have very fast reproductive cycles, i.e. an HIV virus will typically reproduce between 100 and 200 copies in 1 1/2 to 2 days. If it weren't that there's so little selection pressure, they would likely overwhelm us "higher" life-forms totally.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky