An experimental drug has protected monkeys against infection with Nipah virus, a lethal disease and emerging pandemic threat for which there is no approved vaccine or cure, scientists reported on Wednesday.
The antiviral drug, remdesivir, is also being tested against the Ebola virus in the outbreak now underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The only current treatment for Nipah virus infection is a monoclonal antibody that is still experimental; it was tested during an outbreak in India last year.
In the new trial, eight African green monkeys were given lethal doses of Nipah virus. Half of them later got intravenous remdesivir. All four monkeys that got the drug survived; the four that did not died within eight days.
If the drug wins approval for use against Nipah, “it will give us an extra treatment that could be used relatively quickly,” said Emmie de Wit, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the study’s lead authors. “The average person who reaches a hospital dies within two days, so it’s hard to protect them once they’re infected.”