Generic drugs used to treat heart diseases also have the potential to bolster the immune systems of patients with Ebola virus and some other life-threatening illnesses, research has found. Unlike other medications in development for Ebola, which attack the virus, statins and angiotensin receptor blockers typically used for heart disease work on the host response, or a person’s biological reaction to the virus, said lead study author David Fedson, retired professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in the US.
The statin/angiotensin receptor blocker combination was found to help improve survival in 100 Ebola patients treated in Sierra Leone, Fedson said. “This approach to Ebola treatment has two advantages,” Fedson said. First, it uses inexpensive generic drugs that are widely available in any country with a basic healthcare system, and most physicians who treat patients with cardiovascular diseases are familiar with these medications.
Second, because this strategy targets the host response to infection, these drugs might be used to treat patients with any form of acute infectious disease in which a failure to overcome endothelial dysfunction could lead to multi-organ failure and death, Fedson noted. In a pilot study, patients were given the drugs atorvastatin (40 mg/day) and irbesartan (150 mg/day) at several hospitals in West Africa. The researchers found rapid clinical improvement in most patients.
Specifically, the drugs stabilise or restore the integrity of endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. Endothelial cell dysfunction has been a central feature of human Ebola virus disease, leading to severe fluid and mineral losses, Fedson explained. The findings appeared in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.