DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - Scientists at The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston have been working on this project for roughly four years. Dr. Thomas Geisbert says their goal is to come up with a treatment that can be used to give to someone who already has Ebola "in hopes that we can save them from almost certain death. The mortality rates can be up to 90 percent."
He recalls the case of Thomas Duncan, the Liberian man who flew to Dallas in September of 2014 and died of Ebola at a Dallas hospital the next month.
"If we have a situation like that, can we save the person. My lab has been funded for the last five years by the National Institutes of Health to develop treatments for people who are already infected with Ebola."
There are no known cases of Ebola in the United States, but Geisbert cautions "You can get on an airplane and be almost anywhere else in the world in less than a day. And when people first become infected with something like Ebola they don't know they have it. They could easily get on an airplane and not show signs or symptoms, and then get off the plane and two days later they have full blown Ebola."
In this study the team at UTMB helped develop a pool of two different antibodies that are directed to target and kill the Ebola virus. They used three different groups of monkeys and each was infected with a different strain of the Ebola virus. All were treated and recovered. Geisbert says previous vaccines and treatments were very specific.
"We could develop a vaccine and it would work against one type of Ebola and not the other two. One of the big things with the story is this works against all three and you're not trying to guess which one you have and figure that out on the fly."
He is hoping the drug will be stockpiled so it can be deployed to an outbreak.
Geisbert says he has been working on Ebola since 1988 when he was employed with the army, and that his motivation has been consistent. "I've always said if you can save the life of one person, it was worth it."