Auburn University research team develops compound designed to tr - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Auburn University research team develops compound designed to treat Ebola

AUBURN, AL (WSFA) -

A big find in one of Auburn University's labs is making waves as Ebola continues to grip the world's attention. A research team has developed a potential treatment for the deadly virus- one scientists say could help with future outbreaks. 

Stewart Schneller and his team of researchers at Auburn University's Chemistry and Biochemistry Department have spent years working to develop new drugs to treat viruses, particularly those that have the ability to turn off the body's immune system, like Ebola.  The team has developed a promising new compound designed to combat that process. 

"Ebola breaks down the immune system and that causes its dramatic effects. We're trying to block the process by which Ebola turns off the immune response," Schneller explained.

There is currently no approved treatment for Ebola. The death toll in the recent outbreaks in West Africa is approaching 1,000. The president of Liberia has declared a state of emergency as the Ebola crisis there, worsens. On Thursday in Washington, a hearing was held to figure out a way to prevent the disease from becoming a global outbreak. 

Auburn researchers believe a drug could have an edge over vaccines.

"There are some people who cannot be vaccinated. There are people whose systems have been immunocompromised, infants, senior citizens, pregnant women," Schneller said. "Also, it's sometimes difficult to deliver a vaccine to a population... You could be dealing with places that are geographically and even politically difficult to get to. That's why our ultimate ambition is a simple drug."

With their work in the international spotlight, the research team is working to refine their data and modify their results as they strive to be on the cutting edge of Ebola drug design. 
 
"What we're doing right now is not going to help the situation in West Africa because we're right at the beginning stages of drug discovery. We're just going to continue to develop what they have, looking to the future. Ebola probably won't be totally eradicated. We'll be able to contain it and then be prepared for the next time it would happen," Schneller told WSFA. "We're pioneering an idea to be prepared for the possibility that Ebola would come back again and our compound may be further along in the testing."

It's been 10 years of trial and error for members of the research team- made up of undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers- but their work is paying off.

Their discovery is now at the center of extensive studies by the National Institutes of Health. 

The next step is taking the compound to animal studies through collaborators with the NIH.

The groundbreaking research at Auburn University's lab will be published in an upcoming issue of the Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry journal.

"We need to keep working ahead of the possibilities and we're talking about emerging diseases here, emerging viral infections- ones that we don't have now, ones that we have had that have gone away and may come back. So they never disappear as far as the thrust for research because we need to be prepared if it happens again," Schneller added.

The compounds developed in the lab will also be screened against West Nile, Dengue, Yellow Fever, Monkeypox and Measles. 

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