An antidote for one of the world's most deadly virus infections may soon be available, according to researchers who cured monkeys infected with the Ebola virus.
Infected monkeys had been given a chemical cocktail of three antibodies that had been administered to eight monkeys that were separated into two groups. Researchers said that all four of the monkeys that had been given the treatment 24 hours after infection survived, while only two of the four monkeys treated after 48 hours survived.
Researchers from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg said that the breakthrough raises hopes for a better treatment that could improve the chances of humans surviving the disease, which kills nearly nine out of 10 infected people and could potentially be used as a biological weapon.
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for Ebola, a viral haemorrhagic fever that frequently causes sporadic outbreaks in African countries like Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.
Scientists from the study, published in the Science Translational Medicine journal, had given the infected monkeys an antibody concoction called the ZMAb, which targets the deadliest strain of the Ebola virus, the Zaire virus, according to Nature.
While the current ZMAb cocktail only treats one strain of the Ebola virus, researcher hope to make similar treatments that can cure infection caused by other related strains.
The antibody cocktail works by slowing down the replication rate of the virus in the infected animals until the monkeys' own immune systems are able to finish the job. The antibodies were isolated from mice that had been vaccinated with fragments of the virus and work by targeting and neutralizing a glycoprotein on the surface of the virus that allows it to enter and infect cells.
Researchers noted that unlike other cocktails, the ZMAb has multiple antibodies that individually attack different locations of the glycoprotein, making it harder for the Ebola virus to fight back.
"Our researchers have seen first hand the terrible effects of the Ebola virus on populations in Africa," said Dr. Frank Plummer, scientific director of the Winnipeg lab and chief science officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said in a news release.
"This discovery should pave the way for the development of a new drug that has the potential to save many lives," Plummer added.