Scientists develop effective Marburg virus treatment

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Tekmira Pharmaceuticals announced on Wednesday the development of an effective treatment against lethal Marburg virus in nonhuman primates.

The researchers found that the treatment completely protected nonhuman primates against the MARV-Angola strain of Marburg virus, which has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. Marburg virus is in the same family as Ebola and has a rapid disease course of seven to nine days in nonhuman primates.

There were two recent imported case of MARV hemorrhagic fever (HF) to Europe and the U.S. There are currently no drugs or vaccines approved for human use and there is no post-exposure treatment against Marburg.

"The increasingly frequent outbreaks of filoviral HF in Africa evidenced by the current rapidly spreading outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone illustrate the clear and present danger filoviruses represent to human health," Thomas Geisbert, a professor of microbiology and immunology at UTMB, said. "As such, the development of effective countermeasures against these viruses is a critical need."

Previous studies examined countermeasures against MARV infection at times before the subjects showed evidence of clinical illness. The goal of the recent study was to determine if it was possible to protect animals against infection when treatment began after animals had detectable levels of the virus in their system.

"The significance of delaying treatment until three days after infection, which is the earliest time at which diagnosis by viral RNA can be detected and those infected show the first clinical signs of disease, is that this a critical step in triggering clinical interventions," Ian MacLachlan, the executive vice president and chief technical officer at Tekmira, said.