Generic heart disease drugs may hold the key to Ebola treatment

Generic statins and angiotensin receptor blockers typically used for heart disease also have the potential to bolster the immune systems of patients with Ebola virus and other life-threatening illnesses, according to research published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Unlike other medications in development for Ebola that attack the virus, these heart disease medications work on the host response, or a person's biological reaction to the virus, said lead study author David S. Fedson, MD.

Specifically, the drugs stabilize the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels that, when dysfunctional, are a central feature of Ebola virus disease and lead to severe fluid and mineral losses.

According to Dr. Fedson, using generic heart disease medications to approach Ebola treatment has two advantages.

"First, it uses inexpensive generic drugs that are widely available in any country with a basic healthcare system, and most physicians who treat patients with cardiovascular diseases are familiar with these medications," said Dr. Fedson. "Second, because this strategy targets the host response to infection, these drugs might be used to treat patients with any form of acute infectious disease in which a failure to overcome endothelial dysfunction could lead to multi-organ failure and death."

In a pilot study conducted last fall, giving patients the statin/angiotensin receptor blocker combination of atorvastatin (40 mg/day) and irbesartan (150 mg/day) was found to help improve survival in 100 Ebola patients treated in Sierra Leone. According to the study author, rapid clinical improvement was seen in almost all patients with only two who are known to have died.

Of the two patients who died, one was critically ill when first seen and the other initially responded to three days of combination treatment but relapsed and died when combination treatment was stopped and he was instead given an antiviral agent.

Although using the statin/angiotensin receptor blocker to treat the host response would not prevent or cure Ebola virus infection itself, it could allow individual patients to survive long enough to develop an immune response that eliminates the virus. Dr. Fedson points they could potentially be used in combination with antivirals if they are available.



More articles on Ebola:
HHS office to develop 20-minute Ebola test
9 hospitals named regional Ebola, other special pathogen treatment centers
Report deems Ebola preparedness in many hospitals inadequate: 10 things to know

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