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Female hormone Estrogen found to block deadly Ebola virus

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Ebola, the horrific African virus that causes the patient's internal organs to go into meltdown has long been a scourge on the continent. Named after the river in Africa, the virus is 90 percent fatal. Scientists, now working with a variant of the female hormone estrogen, have found a way to potentially block the advance of the virus.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Scientists stumbled upon estrogen as a potential weapon against Ebola while looking to find new uses for old drugs.

Researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland and at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville screened 2,000 existing drugs, in search for chemical compounds that were effective against Ebola.

It was discovered that a number of human-made drugs, including selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMS, blocked Ebola's entry into cells in lab cultures and in mice.

Scientists note that it wasn't the estrogen drugs' hormonal activity that halted the Ebola virus, however.

Lisa Johansen, director of research programs at Zalicus, a biotechnology in Cambridge, Massachusetts says that it was the compound's chemical structure, and the structure of a number of other drugs, that hindered the microorganism. 

"I think that's one of the things that are exciting . When we looked at our inhibitors; we found that a lot of them are entry inhibitors. And a lot of them have the structure even though the mechanism is for something completely unrelated," Johansen said.

Designer drugs designed to act like estrogen without negative side effects, SERMS have acted as the frontline for defense against a host of infectious diseases. For example, Tamoxifen is an older SERM used to treat breast cancer and the newer Reloxifen is approved for the prevention and treatment of the bone-weakening condition osteoporosis.

Both have potentially serious side effects such as an increased risk of other types of cancer. Johansen envisions using SERMS and other repurposed compounds in a number of situations to prevent infection and death.

"I think they could be used both by a civilian population where outbreaks are as well as potentially by the military if they were in an area where there was an outbreak and they went in to intercede, or if somebody used them for bio-warfare," Johansen said.

Ebola has long been feared as a disease that could be used in biological warfare by terrorists. A search to prevent Ebola infection has been long ongoing. An article on using estrogen drugs and other compounds to prevent Ebola virus infection has been recently published in the latest issue of Science Translational Medicine.

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