12 September 2014
As it sweeps across West Africa, Ebola has become the virus to fear, its deadly haemorrhagic fevers claiming around 1500 lives to date. The closely-related Marburg virus, pictured, causes similar severe symptoms; in one outbreak, 90% of infected patients succumbed to the disease. Both Ebola and Marburg are notoriously difficult to cure, and to be effective most potential treatments need to be administered very soon after infection before symptoms appear. However, recent tests on Rhesus monkeys suggest a solution could be at hand. Monkeys infected with Marburg were injected with a small RNA molecule, which interferes with the synthesis of one of the virus’ proteins; all the animals recovered, even if the treatment was given three days after infection. While further tests are needed, this study raises the possibility of extending the treatment window for these diseases, a major step towards improving the likelihood of survival.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat