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Two antivirals protect monkeys from MERS infection

on Mon, 09/09/2013 - 11:59

Interferon-alpha 2b (IFN-α2b) and Ribavirin are two licensed antiviral drugs that protects monkeys from MERS virus, as reported by a research team from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in cooperation with Canadian and French scientists.

The study, published in the September 8 edition of Nature Medicine, confirmed previous experiments that led to hypothesize that a combination of these two antivirals, routinely used together to treat viral diseases such as hepatitis C, could be effective against the novel β coronavirus that, so far, has caused 108 human cases of infection, including 50 deaths.

The drugs were tested on one out of two groups of rhesus macaques, the only known model organism for MERS-CoV infection, previously infected with MERS virus. Compared to the animals that did not receive both drugs, monkeys in the treated group did not develop breathing abnormalities and showed no or very mild radiographic evidence of pneumonia. They also showed lower levels of inflammation, both in the whole body and specifically in the lung, and fewer viral genome copies.

Given these results and the lack of other proper treatment options, the researchers suggest that a combined therapy with IFN-α2b and ribavirin should be considered for the MERS treatment.