Molecule to speed up discovery of anti-Ebola drugs found

By The Citizen

A synthetic molecule that imitates an important section of the Ebola virus promises to speed up discovery of anti-Ebola agents capable of dealing with all current strains and any that emerge in future epidemics.

A report published on Friday by Medical News Today said the molecule – known as a peptide mimic – represents a critical region of the Ebola virus that does not change as it mutates. This means it can be used as a universal drug target for rapid screening of drugs effective against all strains of the virus.

A study describing the development and testing of the new molecule was published in the journal, Protein Science.

The work – which involved a large team of researchers – was led by biochemists at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, United States, and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Drugs currently being sped through trials only deal with one Ebola strain

There are currently no approved anti-Ebola drugs, although a number of experimental drugs that target the Zaire strain behind the current outbreak in West Africa are being fast-tracked through clinical trials.

But co-lead investigator, Debra Eckert, Research Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Utah, warns that while these trial drugs will hopefully lead to an effective treatment for people affected by the current epidemic, they are unlikely to be effective in future outbreaks caused by different or new species of Ebola.

The new peptide molecule that Professor Eckert and colleagues have developed mimics a highly conserved region of an Ebola protein that controls how the virus enters the human host cell, which marks the start of the infection process. Agency report