Drug researchers and manufacturers in Texas may have found a more effective treatment for the Ebola virus by combining two existing drugs, and one federal agency is paying $3.4 million to test the idea.
Pharmaceutical labs Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Texas Biomedical Research Institute teamed up to develop and conduct trials of the new drug cocktail at the request of The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA, which monitors and combats weapons of mass destruction, including biological weapons.
It’s a “unique approach to repurpose two existing drugs,” Dr. Joe McDonough, director of Pharmaceutical and Bioengeneering Departments at SwRI said in a statement.
Both drugs have been on the market for years. One is an anti-malarial used for acute cases against one of the world’s deadliest diseases, and the other is used to treat certain types of cancer, but also works against malaria. When the drugs are combined, they have a “synergistic effect” in combating malaria virus, according to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Both drugs kill Ebola, but the sizes of the individual doses required to eliminate the virus would be dangerous for humans. SwRI and Texas Biomed believe that combining the drugs will have a similarly synergistic effect in fighting Ebola, and be more easily absorbed by humans, according to a press release announcing the contract.
Researchers found that in combination, the drugs are far more effective against malaria than alone, and hypothesize that similar advantages could be realized against Ebola.
The announcement comes soon after Obama took $500 million earmarked for Ebola response efforts. Congress approved $750 million to combat the Ebola crisis, but since outbreak began to fade in late 2014, much of that money remained unused. Last September, the DTRA granted NewLink Genetics $8.1 million to develop a new vaccine to treat Ebola.
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