A Drug to Fight Nipah Virus!
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.