Might BMS’s Yervoy® Be Useful — To Treat Acute Ebola Sufferers? New Research, In Nature — Points To Hope

Some startling viral epidemiological life-science news just caught my eye on this sunny Mother’s Day morning. To be sure, we are a long way from a therapy, here — and the cost barrier may be insurmountable (as ipilimumab, a biologic, is very very expensive to manufacture and distribute) — but the finding is well-worthy of note.

A European scientist working with samples of Ebola-infected patients’ blood, from Conakry, Guinea, has shown that those who died from the Ebola virus expressed the protein CTLA-4 in high amounts — not entirely unlike patients who are most at mortality risk — from melanoma.

So, it would stand to reason that a biologic, like Yervoy® (the BMS brand name for ipilimumab) — which takes the brakes off of our immune system, to help fight some cancers — at the CTLA-4 protein site, might be of use — in combating acute cases of Ebola. Since Yervoy is already FDA approved, the path through animal models, and then Phase II/III studies could be expedited. But any therapy (in Africa) will have to address the economics of delivering it, as well.

Just the same, here’s a bit from The Guardian last week, in London (and a link to purchase the article published in the journal Nature) — but do go read The Guardian article, in full:

. . . .Scientists have identified a key feature in the human immune system that determines whether someone will live or die from Ebola. . . .

A study of blood taken four days after the onset of symptoms in 157 patients in Conakry, Guinea, showed that a significantly high level of a protein known as CTLA-4 – which acts as a brake on the immune system response mounted by the body during an acute infection – indicated that a patient would not survive.

The research, published in the journal Nature, found that Ebola survivors had much lower levels of CTLA-4 and generated an Ebola-specific T cell response. . . .

A very long road yet to travel, from Phase I to a working, economically sustainable therapy in humans, but this is quite exciting — and welcome news. Onward, on a joyous Mother’s Day — with love, to one and all!

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