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Ebola virus research shows promise

By Associated Press
Published December 12, 2003

LONDON - The first treatment to show any promise against the deadly Ebola virus has cured a third of the monkeys it was tested on - raising hopes that a lifesaving therapy for humans may be on the horizon.

Experts said the results represent the biggest advance yet in the quest for a drug against Ebola hemorrhagic fever, one of the most feared diseases. World Health Organization doctors said they plan to try the drug on humans during the next outbreak.

In the study, outlined this week in the Lancet medical journal, scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases used a protein that blocks blood coagulation, a major problem in the disease.

Although it is called Ebola hemorrhagic fever, bleeding occurs in only about 40 percent of cases and is often not the cause of death. The affliction is so named because when there is hemorrhage, it is dramatic. The disease most often involves a shock syndrome where multiple organs shut down at once.

The monkey results are encouraging for humans because they provide a very stringent test, said C.J. Peters, director for biodefense at the Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. If anything, he said, death rates from Ebola are higher in monkeys than in humans.

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