The Quest to Cure Ebola

West Africa is currently facing the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history.  The virus has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent and is spread through contact with blood or bodily fluids.  Ebola has no known cure; the only treatment is isolation.  Unfortunately, many Africans erroneously believe that aid workers are spreading the disease and refuse to be examined or quarantined.  To date, there have been more than 650 fatalities from 1,200 known cases.

The current outbreak is believed to have originated in Guinea before spreading to Sierra Leone and Liberia.  This week the disease crossed the border into Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.  Two American aid workers have recently tested positive for the virus.

The epidemic is particularly worrying due to Ebola’s’ potential use in bio-terrorism or biological warfare.

Developing a therapeutic for Ebola has been difficult because test animals such as rodents are normally resistant to the virus.  Using a variant that affects mice, scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute were able to identify various proteins that render mice both more and less susceptible to the virus.  Researchers used an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer system.

Unfortunately, successful tests in rodents have not translated to success in primates.  Scientists in the UK have been working to develop alternative small animal models using mice with lower immunity profiles, using an Agilent AdEasy Adenoviral Vector system.

Scientists in North America and Japan performed the first study that clearly defined unique molecular signatures associated with Ebola lethality.  Agilent equipment included the 2100 Bioanalyzer system, one-color LowInput Quick Amp label kit, microarrays, DNA microarray scanner and Feature Extractor software.

More recently, scientists in America and Egypt developed a novel approach to identify small molecules that can inhibit or prevent viral entry into the host cell.  They believe this approach could be used to develop potential antiviral therapeutics against Ebola, Hendra, Nipah, SARS and other viral diseases.

This information is for research purposes only.  It is not intended for any use in diagnostic procedures.


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