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Asian herb derivative could work against Ebola: study

SAMAA | - Posted: Feb 26, 2015 | Last Updated: 7 years ago
Posted: Feb 26, 2015 | Last Updated: 7 years ago

MIAMI: A small molecule derived from an Asian herb may help stop Ebola infection by preventing the virus from entering the cells of the body, researchers said.

So far the research using the calcium channel blocker Tetrandrine, found in some Chinese and Japanese herbs, against Ebola has only been done in lab animals and in petri dishes.

However, the findings so far warrant tests in primates before possibly being tried in people, said the authors of the study in the journal Science.

Researchers studied several existing drugs currently used to treat high blood pressure in order to find out which small molecules were best at blocking the Ebola virus from moving any further through the cell.

Tetrandrine protected mice from disease without obvious side effects, and appeared to be the most potent of the compounds tested.

“When we tested in mice, the drugs stopped virus replication and saved most of them from disease,” said Robert Davey, scientist and Ewing Halsell Scholar in the Department of Immunology and Virology at Texas Biomedical Research Institute.

“We are very excited about the progress made in this study and the momentum it provides as scientists across the world vigorously search for effective vaccines and treatments against Ebola virus,” Davey said. 

There is no drug on the market to treat Ebola, which has killed more than 9,000 people, mainly in West Africa, since 2013 in the world's largest outbreak to date.

“We are cautiously optimistic. The next step in the process is to test both safety and effectiveness of the interaction of the drug with Ebola virus in non-human primates,” said Davey.

Co-authors on the research came from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; the Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich (CIPSM) at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat München in Munich, Germany; and the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. –AFP

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