High-dose antiviral drug found to be effective against Ebola

Cure against ebola

A new study on Favipiravir, a Japanese antiviral drug used against influenza, proves to be effective against the Ebola virus. But the treatment, tested on primates, must be administered at high doses.

The Ebola virus has been less talked about since its surge between 2014 and 2016. More than 11,000 people died in West Africa at this time. But, the threat of a massive outbreak still looms, and the race to find a cure rages on.

Although vaccines have been updated, no effective treatment against ebola has been validated to date. Recently, researchers have shown the effectiveness of a Japanese antiviral drug, Favipiravir, used against influenza. Tested at low doses in humans, the drug had reduced the mortality rate by half. A new study, conducted by French researchers at Inserm (National Institute of Health and Medical Research), proves once again the effectiveness of Favipiravir, but on one condition: it must be administered in high doses. The results are published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

To carry out this study, Inserm researchers infected 26 primates with a strain of the Ebola virus and then followed them for 21 days. Half of them received treatment, the other half did not. Those receiving Favipiravir were treated two days before infection, at two doses per day. Three subgroups were treated with a different dose of Favipiravir: 100mg per kg, 150 mg per kg and 180mg per kg.

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The results of the test are as follows: all the animals that have not been treated or received the lowest dose of Favipiravir died within 10 days of infection. Two  of the five (40%) primates who received 150mg per kg of Favipiravir were still alive after 21 days. The survival rate was better at the highest dose (180 mg / kg): 3 out of 5 survived (60%).

If these conclusions are encouraging, the dosage must still be adapted to humans, because the dose administered to these primates would be fatal for humans. In addition, treatment started before infection. However, if a person has Ebola, treatment begins after the onset of symptoms (fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea or internal or external hemorrhage). In this case, the sick person is already contagious.

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Sarah Ali

Sarah is currently pursuing a degree in Pharmacology at the University of Florida. She focuses on health news and tips for The Talking Democrat.