New African Ebola Outbreak Adds Urgency to Local Researchers

Indications that the deadly Ebola virus is mutating and is staging a comeback in Central Africa are being followed closely at San Antonio's Texas Biomedical Research Institute, which has one of the most robust ongoing efforts in the country to come up with a treatment for the highly contagious disease, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Researchers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo say multiple cases of a new, mutated variant of Ebola has been found in a major city, and because of the highly contagious nature of Ebola, there are serious fears it could spread to epidemic levels.

Dr. Ricardo Carrion, Jr, who heads the 'Hot Zone,' the unique Biosafetly Level 4 laboratory at Texas Biomed, says mutations of diseases like Ebola are not unusual, and they are on researchers' radar.

"We are working on a number of vaccines and therapies that are multivated, which means they can target many different types of Ebola," Carrion said.

Texas Biomed is currently testing a promising Ebola treatment called ZMapp with the support of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Homeland Security, which sees deadly Ebola as a potential bio terrorism threat.  

Dr. Carrion says while no treatments for Ebola have been approved for use by the FDA in the United States, it is possible for patients in Africa to be treated with experimental vaccines under 'compassionate use' policies.  He says there is a 2023 goal of having Ebola vaccines available in the U.S.

"Now we are currently working with a company on therapeutic treatments, which actually target three different types of Ebola virus."

Texas' best known brush with Ebola came in 2014-2015, when a man who tested  positive for the disease arrived in Dallas from Africa.  When he went to a hospital for treatment, the disease spread to hospital workers.

Dr. Carrion says Ebola is still not endemic in the United States and is generally found only in Africa.

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