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Zoloft And Blood Pressure Medication Help Ebola-Infected Mice To Reach Astounding Survival Rates

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Could an effective treatment for Ebola be in the back of your medicine cabinet? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A recent study suggests that an effective treatment for the deadly Ebola virus may already be in your medicine cabinet. Researchers found that between 70 and 100 percent of Ebola-infected mice treated with the common antidepressant Zoloft or the blood pressure medication Vascor survived 30 days after infection. The promising results have researchers working to combine the drugs to create the ultimate Ebola killer.

Since it first began in late 2013, the most recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 11,132 lives. According to the World Health Organization, it is the largest Ebola epidemic in recorded history. The emergency status of the situation has forced the Food and Drug Administration to lift normal drug testing and approval circumstances in order to find an effective treatment for the virus as soon as possible. As reported by Discover Magazine, over 100 compounds already proven safe for people have already shown activity against the virus, but Zoloft and Vascor performed especially well.

In a recent study, now published in Science Translational Medicine, mice infected with Zaire ebolavirus were given either Zoloft (sertraline) or Vascor (bepridil). Results showed that 70 percent of mice treated with Zoloft and 100 percent of mice treated with Vascor survived 30 days after being treated. In comparison, all of the untreated mice died nine days after infection.

"It was quite shocking that some of these drugs worked. To be honest, we didn't think some of these would," explained Gene Olinger, a scientist under contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and lead researcher, The Washington Post reported.

Mysterious Reaction

Zoloft is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that works by blocking the reuptake of the chemical serotonin in the brain. Vascor helps to lower blood pressure by keeping calcium from entering the cells that line blood vessel walls. However, it appears other unidentified properties of the drugs are playing a role in defeating Ebola infections. Viruses like Ebola work by entering and infecting healthy cells in the body, but the two drugs seem to be able to inhibit the virus from entering the cells. Scientists are still exploring this mysterious yet fortuitous reaction.

According to Discover Magazine the team is working toward pre-clinical assessments and developing a way to combine the active agents in both compounds to create a drugs that’s even more effective in fighting the disease. “A disease as acute as Ebola requires strong activity and we hope to achieve better outcomes with combinations,” Olinger said.

The researchers involved in the study urge the public from getting too excited over these premature results. Oftentimes, drugs that appear miraculous in mice models fail to show the same results when used again in humans. Further animal testing is required to better understand the drugs’ effects on the virus before human testing can even be discussed. Unfortunately, in a strange twist of fate, the dropping number of Ebola cases means when the drug is finally at the human testing stage, there may no longer be any available subjects.

Despite this, Olinger is confident that an effective treatment against Ebola will be found, with or without available human subjects. The team has currently posted its data online to try and speed-up the research and appeal to the public for possible answers.

"Today’s science world is data rich. We may have missed something in the data, and either tomorrow or many years from now another researcher may interpret differently and find a different answer," Olinger said, as reported by The Washington Post.

Source: Johansen LM, DeWald L, Shoemaker CJ, et al. A screen of approved drugs and molecular probes identifies therapeutics with anti–Ebola virus activity. Science Translational Medicine. 2014.

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