Novel drug treatment protects primates from deadly Marburg virus

March 4, 2014

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated the effectiveness of a small-molecule drug in protecting nonhuman primates from the lethal Marburg virus. Their work, published online in the journal Nature, is the result of a continuing collaboration between Army scientists and industry partners that also shows promise for treating a broad range of other viral diseases.

According to senior author Sina Bavari, the drug, known as BCX4430, protected cynomolgous macaques from Marburg infection when administered by injection as long as 48 hours post-infection. Bavari and his team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) also found that BCX4430 protected guinea pigs exposed to Marburg virus by the inhalation route.

Developed by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc., BCX4430 also demonstrated activity against a broad range of other RNA viruses, including the emerging viral pathogen Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), when tested in cell culture.

"This study demonstrates the importance of government-industry collaboration," said COL Erin P. Edgar, commander of USAMRIID. "Developing filovirus medical countermeasures is a top biodefense priority for the United States. When federal assets like USAMRIID team up with cutting-edge partners in private industry, we can make real progress toward achieving that goal."

The paper's first author, Travis K. Warren of USAMRIID, said findings from the work show the drug acts by interfering with the internal "machinery" of the Marburg virus, preventing it from replicating its genetic material. He said the team is currently planning additional studies to determine whether the therapeutic window can be extended beyond 48 hours. In addition, BioCryst plans to file investigational new drug (IND) applications for intravenous and intramuscular BCX4430 for the treatment of Marburg virus disease, and to conduct Phase 1 human clinical trials, according to Warren.

Ebola and Marburg cause hemorrhagic fever with case fatality rates as high as 90 percent in humans. The viruses, which are infectious by aerosol (although more commonly spread through blood and bodily fluids of infected patients), are of concern both as global health threats and as potential agents of biological warfare or terrorism. Currently there are no available vaccines or therapies. Research on both viruses is conducted in Biosafety Level 4, or maximum containment, laboratories, where investigators wear positive-pressure "space suits" and breathe filtered air as they work.

Explore further: Post-exposure antibody treatment protects primates from Ebola, Marburg viruses

More information: Protection against filovirus diseases by a novel broad-spectrum nucleoside analog BCX4430: Nature, published online 2 Mar 2014. DOI: 10.1038/nature13027

Related Stories

Post-exposure antibody treatment protects primates from Ebola, Marburg viruses

March 13, 2012
Army scientists have demonstrated, for the first time, that antibody-based therapies can successfully protect monkeys from the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses. In addition, the animals were fully protected even when treatment ...

Study identifies chemical compounds that halt virus replication

March 21, 2013
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have identified a new chemical class of compounds that have the potential to block genetically diverse viruses from replicating. The findings, published in Chemistry ...

Marburg fever kills four in Uganda: ministry

October 19, 2012
An outbreak of Marburg haemorrhagic fever in a remote region in western Uganda has so far killed four people, the health ministry said in a statement.

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.