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Ebola Cure? Monkey Study Shows Deadly Infection Can Be Eradicated

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Researchers cured Ebola-infected macaques, the type of monkey pictured here, with an antibody cocktail.
Researchers cured Ebola-infected macaques, the type of monkey pictured here, with an antibody cocktail.

Canadian scientists may be on the verge of finding a cure for Ebola after an experimental drug "cocktail" apparently cured monkeys infected with the deadly virus.

In their recent study, all four of the monkeys promptly treated with the antibody-containing cocktail survived infection. The researchers said they could be ready to test the treatment on humans by 2014, according to io9.

Science magazine published the study on June 13 under the title "Successful Treatment of Ebola Virus–Infected Cynomolgus Macaques with Monoclonal Antibodies." The paper notes that all of the monkeys given the antibodies within 24 hours of exposure were cured, and that two of four monkeys who received the drug within 48 hours of Ebola exposure were cured.

“The antibodies slowed replication until the animals’ own immune systems kicked in and completely cleared the virus,” Gary Kobinger, a medical microbiologist who led the study, told Nature.

The research was conducted at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada.

"It's just remarkable that this treatment works. We're really excited about it," Dr. Frank Plummer of the Public Health Agency of Canada, said of the study, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

The CDC has mapped outbreaks of the Ebola virus on the African continent since 1976. That year, the virus killed 280 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1995, 250 people in Congo died from the virus, while an outbreak in Uganda in 2000 killed 224. As recently as 2007, another 187 Congolese died of the Ebola virus disease.

Slate notes that "ninety percent of people infected with Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever, die within 10 days," a startling statistic that underscores the significance of a potential cure.

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