A Drug to Fight Ni­pah Virus!

Alive - - Health -

Is the Med­i­cal Col­lege Hospi­tal, Kozhikode, Ker­ala, al­ready in pos­ses­sion of hu­man mon­o­clonal an­ti­body (‘hmAb’), con­sid­ered to have the po­ten­tial to re­duce mor­tal­ity among Ni­pah pa­tients? The state health min­is­ter K. K. Shailaja, in her press brief­ing on 25 May, claimed that 50 doses of the an­ti­body, which has been tested on Hen­dra (sim­i­lar to Ni­pah) pa­tients in Aus­tralia, has al­ready reached the hospi­tal. The an­ti­body has been found to be ef­fec­tive on an­i­mals. “Drugs that aren’t ap­proved can be tested out on com­pas­sion­ate grounds on hu­mans. The an­ti­body from Aus­tralia has been ad­min­is­tered on peo­ple on com­pas­sion­ate grounds be­fore and they sur­vived,” said Ker­ala health sec­re­tary Ra­jeev Sadanan­dan.

Mean­while, sci­en­tists at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Virol­ogy, Pune, have con­firmed that ef­fi­cacy of ‘Ribavirin’ in re­duc­ing the vi­ral load in peo­ple in­fected with Ni­pah virus. The drug is pri­mar­ily used for treat­ing vi­ral in­fec­tion of the liver or Hepati­tis C. The sci­en­tists as­cer­tained the bind­ing of the drug to the Ni­pah virus by us­ing bioin­for­mat­ics and com­pu­ta­tion mod­els. So far, this is the only In­dian study car­ried out on the drug’s ef­fi­cacy in Ni­pah in­fec­tion.

In the ab­sence of other treat­ments, doc­tors have been us­ing the drug to treat pa­tients in­fected with Ni­pah. How­ever, Ribavirin isn’t a proven treat­ment for Ni­pah. There has been only sin­gle open la­bel trial ev­i­dence from Malaysia and it states that Ribavirin works against the virus. The NIV study has pro­vided a firmer ba­sis for us­ing the drug to treat Ni­pah in­fec­tion.

“There’s no spe­cific treat­ment or vac­cine avail­able against Ni­pah in­fec­tion. Keep­ing in mind the med­i­cal emer­gency in Ker­ala, the po­tent known an­tivi­ral drug is Ribavirin. We car­ried out an in-sil­ico study (us­ing com­puter soft­ware mod­els) to eval­u­ate its ef­fi­cacy,” says Dr Sarah Che­rian, who car­ried out the study. The drug should be ad­min­is­tered at least within 2 – 3 days of symp­toms of the in­fec­tion. As a pre­cau­tion, the drug can be ad­min­is­tered to sus­pected Ni­pah virus pa­tients, ad­vises Dr Che­rian.

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