The Ebola virus first emerged in 1976, striking fear with the uncontrollable bleeding it causes and mortality rates up to 90 percent. Ever since then, scientists have been struggling to find a way to treat the infection or protect against it.
There has been progress, but nothing quite like the report in the May 28 issue of the scientific journal The Lancet. A team led by Thomas Geisbert of Boston University has used an experimental drug to protect monkeys from death after injecting them with massive doses of the most lethal strain of Ebola.
"We were stunned," Geisbert says. "I've been working with this virus for my whole career — 23 or 24 years, and we've had some mild successes where maybe we could go up to 50 percent protection," he said. "But I was really shocked that we got complete protection."
Virologist Heinz Feldmann of the National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who often collaborates with Geisbert but was not involved in this work, called the results "a milestone" — and not just for treatment of Ebola.
"I think this will most likely also work for other related viral hemorrhagic fevers," Feldmann said, such as Marburg, Lassa and Crimean-Congo fever. All are deadly to one degree or another and cause outbreaks in Africa and elsewhere.
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