Several experimental treatments for Ebola are currently available and although none have been officially tested and approved several promising results have been observed.
By Chandres (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
An experimental anti-viral drug that has shown some initial potential for the treatment of Ebola. The drug is currently in phase 3 human trials for the treatment of cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, and smallpox. An urgent authorization has been provided by the FDA for testing as a treatment for Ebola. The drug was tested with the first American case of Ebola. The patient died 4 days after receiving the drug.
Traditionally used as a treatment for HIV and Hepatitis B, it acts as a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor. The drug was tested by Dr. Gobee Logan in Liberia as an off label treatment for Ebola. The doctor claims significant improvement in the survival chance of patients upon receiving the medication. No official experiments have been conducted to confirm the efficacy of treatment and fears have been raised around the potential damage to the liver of a patient.
This drug has been placed on a suspended hold after phase one clinical trials resulted in flu like symptoms among test subjects. The drug is a combination of Small interfering RNAs. Three of the seven proteins present in the Ebola virus are targeted by the drug. Experimental administration of the drug is permitted in patients already infected with Ebola however healthy individuals may not receive the treatment at this time.
ZMapp is notably the best known potential Ebola treatment having been administered to several patients who survived Ebola infection. The drug is in limited supply as it is grown in a genetically modified tobacco plant and cannot be synthesized in a laboratory. In one example of testing 3 Liberians received the drug with two surviving. Supply of the medication is currently exhausted according to the manufacturer however several governments around the world have limited supplies of the drug. ZMapp contains neutralizing antibodies that allegedly provide passive immunity to the Ebola Virus.
The Ebola virus and HIV share a handful of similarities which raises questions about the potential for HIV medication to be used as treatment for Ebola patients. Recently a Doctor in Liberia has claimed successful treatment of Ebola using Lamivudine which typically inhibits reverse transcriptase when used as an HIV treatment. Dr. Gobee Logan administered the drug to 15 patients of which 13 survived. Although the sample is too small to draw conclusions and it is doubtful that a scientific process was followed due the nature of the outbreak it certainly provides an interesting line of thought that may very well lead to a better understanding of Ebola treatment. This all depends on whether the Doctors claims can be validated and replicated. No data could be found on lab confirmations for the Ebola virus in the patients which received Lamivudine.
By Thomas Splettstoesser (www.scistyle.com) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Doctors will likely point out that Ebola uses RNA dependent RNA polymerase and not reverse transcriptase immediately limiting the potential for HIV drugs to be used as treatment. Lamivudine could potentially be bound to by the Ebola virus but there has not been sufficient testing at this point to confirm its efficacy and given its direct impact on the Liver, which is attacked severely by the virus, the treatment window may be very small if proven effective. Acyclovir and AZT are unlikely candidates since neither offers an analogue used in RNA dependent RNA polymerase. Specifically Acyclovir targets DNA polymerase while Ebola is an RNA virus and AZT is a thymidine analogue.
Experimentation is a vital part of scientific progress and Dr. Gobee Logan is pioneering some interesting tests in a world where western pharmaceutical companies find themselves bound by regulations and process. The regulations have a purpose and serve to protect not only industries but also human lives by ensuring proper testing and safety precautions are taken before prescribing medications. Despite regulation, the Ebola Outbreak will need drastic action and Doctors will understandably push the limits and boundaries as they attempt to save lives.