Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Fast-tracking access to experimental Ebola drugs

By Glenn Marsh

Several therapeutic treatments are in experimental phases of testing and show great promise in treating Ebola virus infections in animal models.

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The current outbreak of Zaire Ebola virus in Western Africa is the largest ever recorded. More than 1800 people have been infected and nearly 1000 people have died. But while drug therapies are close to being available, they may not be ready in time for the current outbreak, even if safety trials are fast-tracked.

Several therapeutic treatments being developed by other organisations are in experimental phases of testing and show great promise in treating Ebola virus infections in animal models. These include antibodies (one of the body’s natural defence mechanisms to fight infections), RNAi molecules (that target the genetic material of the virus) and several more traditional pharmaceutical drugs.

Safety trials

Before being administered to people, each of these new potential therapies would require human clinical trials, starting with a phase I safety trial. In phase I, the products under investigation are administered to healthy volunteers to evaluate how safe the treatments are, including determining a safe dose range and potential side effects. These trials generally involve 20 to 80 individuals.

Phase II trials, used to determine efficacy, are complicated to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.