Fertility drug appears to stop Ebola virus

U. VIRGINIA (US) — A class of drugs that includes treatments for breast cancer and infertility appears to inhibit the deadly, incurable Ebola virus.

Clomiphene, which is used to treat female infertility, and toremifene, used to treat breast cancer, can effectively block Ebola infections in mice. The drugs, and others with similar structures, seem to prevent the virus from delivering its RNA into the cytoplasm of cells.

Without the ability to deliver its genetic payload, the virus degrades quickly and is removed from the body.


“These are among the first FDA-approved compounds shown to be effective against Ebola in mouse models,” says Judith M. White, a researcher at the University of Virginia. “With a virus this lethal, you want something to combat it.”

Ebola infections carry fatality rates of up to 90 percent. It strikes both humans and other primates, and there are fears it could be used as a biological weapon. There’s no cure, so it’s imperative that scientists find effective treatments.

The new discovery could lead to the repurposing of FDA-approved drugs, already available for prescription, to combat the virus.

Researchers discovered that the drugs were preventing the virus from fusing with membranes in targeted cells, essentially hemming in the viral RNA.

“Ebola virus is in a race against the clock when it gets into the cell,” says Jason Shoemaker, a postdoctoral fellow. “We want to lock the door on it.”

The research could have important ramifications for understanding the Ebola infection process. “There is a lot about Ebola viruses that is very strange compared to other viruses,” Shoemaker says. “Any work that helps uncover more information about the viral entry pathway is helpful.”

The findings have been published online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: University of Virginia