Old Drug, New Tricks

in Featured, In The News, Lab Updates
November 19th, 2018

The inspiration stemmed from observations made during the 2014–2016 Ebola epidemic that swept through West Africa, infecting more than 28,000 people and killing more than 11,000 in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone alone. The outbreak attracted the attention of virologists from around the world, and several of them, including Robert Davey, noticed something intriguing: patients with Ebola who had been treated with amodiaquine, an antiviral medication typically used to treat malaria, were 31 percent less likely to die.

“People were saying ‘It’s interesting’; I wondered if it was important,” says Davey, a School of Medicine professor of microbiology and a researcher at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), who was working at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute at the time. “I thought we should test some [chemical] derivatives and see if we could find some improvement over the amodiaquine performance,” he says.

Davey and collaborators set out to learn exactly which parts of the amodiaquine molecule were inhibiting Ebola virus infection. Their findings, published on November 3, 2018, in Antiviral Research, show that modified amodiaquine derivatives are significantly less toxic and nearly 10 times more effective at blocking Ebola virus than the original amodiaquine formula that greatly reduced mortality during the West Africa outbreak.


Click to read full article on BU Today