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Published On: Sun, Sep 8th, 2013

Antiviral drug cocktail reduces MERS virus in monkeys according to study

With the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) still growing, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are reporting some promising results from using a drug cocktail of two common, licensed antiviral drugs at reducing viral replication in MERS infected monkeys, according to a study published today in Nature Medicine.

This thin section, negatively-stained transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was formerly known as novel coronavirus. Image/Maureen Metcalfe; Azaibi Tamin

This thin section, negatively-stained transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was formerly known as novel coronavirus. Image/Maureen Metcalfe; Azaibi Tamin

According to the research, scientists infected six rhesus macaques with MERS-CoV and, eight hours later, treated half of them with the two-drug regimen of  ribavirin and interferon (IFN-α2b). Compared to the untreated animals, the treatment group showed no breathing difficulties and only minimal X-ray evidence of pneumonia. The treated animals also had lower amounts of virus and less severe tissue damage in the lungs.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the study “not a game changer, but an important observation.”

The number of monkeys was minimal, treatment was started very soon after infection, and drugs that work in monkeys sometimes fail in humans, he said, adding: “But if I were a doctor with MERS patients, and I had nothing else to give them, I wouldn’t hesitate. If someone has advanced disease, there’s 50 percent mortality.”

Researchers say data suggest that treatment of MERS-CoV infected rhesus macaques with IFN-α2b and ribavirin reduces virus replication, moderates the host response and improves clinical outcome. As these two drugs are already used in combination in the clinic for other infections, IFN-α2b and ribavirin should be considered for the management of MERS-CoV cases.

According to the latest update from the World Health Organization, globally, from September 2012 to date, WHO has been informed of a total of 114 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including 54 deaths.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Antiviral drug cocktail reduces MERS virus in monkeys according to study - The Global Dispatch - Top Trends Top Trends says:

    […] Antiviral drug cocktail reduces MERS virus in monkeys according to studyThe Global DispatchWith the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) still growing, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are reporting some promising results from using a drug cocktail … […]

  2. News Scan for Sep 09, 2013 – CIDRAP | Weight Loss Diet Plan says:

    […] kills 2 in Saudi Arabia; 102 infected worldwideColumbus DispatchRhode Island Public Radio -The Global Dispatch -RedOrbitall 94 news […]

  3. John Thomas says:

    I’ve been following the latest MERS outbreak press releases via PrepperZone.net on Twitter and I have to admit that I’m a bit freaked out about the potential of such a virus making its way to a densely populated city and having it mutate to being an airborne strain. Let’s pray that doesn’t happen…

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