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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – Possible Ebola Virus Treatment - 2003-12-21

Broadcast: December 22, 2003

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

Scientists appear to have made progress toward a treatment for the Ebola virus. Most people infected with Ebola die.

Scientists at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases carried out the study. Their results appear this month in the British medical publication The Lancet.

The scientists injected twelve monkeys with the Ebola virus. Then nine of the animals received an experimental drug. It is called recombinant nematode anticoagulant protein c-two. The monkeys received the drug almost immediately or within twenty-four hours of infection. They continued to receive the drug each day for up to fourteen days.

Ebola normally kills any monkey it infects. But three of the nine monkeys treated with the drug survived. The other six died; however, the study says the drug delayed their death for several days. The three monkeys left untreated also died.

Thomas Geisbert led the study. He says his team considered the Ebola problem in a new way. In past studies, scientists tested anti-retroviral medicine as a possible way to prevent infection. The Army researchers instead examined ways to treat signs of the disease.

They say the experimental drug appears to stop the effects of a protein called tissue factor. White blood cells release this protein as they try to fight the infection. It causes the cells to stick together, or clot. Ebola victims die from severe clotting and bleeding inside the body. The experimental drug is made from hookworms, which use the chemical to keep blood flowing in their victims.

Other scientists are also testing the drug as a treatment for heart trouble.

Signs of the Ebola virus include a sudden rise in body temperature, weakness, muscle pain and a headache. This progresses into vomiting and diarrhea, and bleeding inside and outside the body.

Over the years, the Ebola virus has killed more than one-thousand people in outbreaks in central Africa. It was first discovered in nineteen-seventy-six, near the Ebola River, and is spread through body fluids. The starting point in nature is not known.

The Republic of Congo has had a recent spread of the disease. The World Health Organization says officials had reported twenty-nine deaths as of December eleventh in the Mbomo District.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.