Possible Treatment for Ebola Virus Infections

Ebola virus is a very nasty and deadly virus. In the past few years a number of outbreaks have occurred in Africa. Measures to control the spread of the disease are very effective in preventing other people from getting sick however, there is currently no way to treat a person already infected with the virus. The only thing that physicians can do is to work hard to stop the bleeding and keep the patient alive until their immune system eliminates the virus. A report in the  Journal of Virology contains an article that may result in a treatment to eliminate the ebola virus from already infected people. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and the U.S. Army Research Institute for Infectious Diseases used an experimental mouse model for ebola virus infection. If mice are injected with the ebola virus just under the skin (subcutaneous) they do not get sick but do mount an immune response to the virus. Mice injected in their abdomen (intraperitoneal) get sick and die within 6-8 days.

The researchers collected serum from the mice that had been injected with ebola virus subcutaneously and tested its ability to prevent the death of mice intraperitoneally injected with ebola. Serum is the liquid that is left after all the red blood cells and white blood cells have been removed from blood. The serum successfully protected all mice intraperitoneally injected with the ebola virus, regardless of whether it was given before or after infection. It even worked on mice with poorly working immune systems.

The researchers demonstrated that serum from mice that survived ebola infection could protect mice lethally-infected with the ebola virus. Some people survive an ebola virus infection. Therefore, serum from survivors could be used in the future to protect people infected with the ebola virus. Or better yet, these experiments demonstrate a successful vaccine could be produced that would protect people from Ebola virus infections.

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