Monday, November 17, 2014

New Ebola Treatment

An interesting new method for treating Ebola was reported by doctors of Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt at a conference for the American Society of Nephrology last Friday and published in Time.  The treatment aims to literally clear the majority of the Ebola virus from the system, using filtering as a technique to allow the body to mount a large enough immune response to stave off the virus once it returns at a higher viral load.

This technique was used experimentally to treat a dying patient coming from Sierra Leone.  The patient was put on dialysis, and using the Hemopurifier, a device  that combines blood dialysis and virus filtering, the doctors hoped to lower the viral load in the patient's body.  The device and acts via a protein that specifically and precisely attaches to proteins found on the surface of Ebola, thereby filtering the virus from the blood.  To the surprise of the doctors, this method worked even better than expected, with viral load dropping dramatically from 400,000/mL blood to 1,000/mL blood.

After his treatment, the patient improved rapidly to the point where his own immune system could fight off the virus without the support of dialysis.  The combined starting condition of the patient when he initially underwent treatment (in a state of near-death) as well as the dramatic drop in viral load suggest that this therapy may actually be effective in treating Ebola.  Unfortunately however,  the widespread practicality of such a treatment is limited to wealthy, developed countries as dialysis treatment is extremely costly.  

--Andrew Duong

No comments: