THAI HOSPITAL DEVELOPS CURE FOR EBOLA EPIDEMIC

BANGKOK: Doctors at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hosptial, Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand claim that they have developed a new antibody that could cure Ebola patients. The antibody could be a year away from being produced on a large scale, they said.

In a press conference on Thursday (Oct 2), the hospital announced that it has produced antibodies against Ebola that are small enough to enter infected cells, and also access the virus proteins within the cell.

Dr Wanpen Chaicumpa, head of the Ebola research team at Siriraj Hosptial, said: “Conventional antibody that works against virus was to prevent the entry of virus into cells. But our antibody, because it is small and cell penetrable, it can follow the virus that already enters the cell, like in an infected patient. And it can block … the virus replication process.”

The research will also result in a cure that is more efficient and effective than other potential cures, say the doctors. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Ebola, but an experimental drug, ZMapp, is currently undergoing testing.

Saying that the discovery is a breakthrough from a research standpoint, the doctors say their prototype antibodies were developed using human genes. The samples used are viruses similar to the five Ebola strands and no live Ebola viruses were used, they added.

The doctors say the next step is to conduct animal testing before moving on to testing the vaccine on humans. Dr Udom Kachintorn, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, said: “In theory, we are 100 per cent confident of our antibody research. But there are two more steps in the scientific process – first, is testing it for safety and efficacy in animals. Then, a clinical trial with humans.” If the tests are successful, the antibody would then need to be manufactured on a large scale.

While Siriraj doctors warn that this could be a year away, they also insist that the Thai pharmaceutical sector could help rush the development, pending more tests. Currently, the research will be followed up by Siam Bioscience, a joint Thai-Cuban pharmaceutical launched this year.

Ebola is spread by close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is showing symptoms, or by touching the corpse of a person who died from the hemorrhagic virus. The fast-growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 3,000 people since the start of the year.

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