Treatment of ebola virus disease

Pharmacotherapy. 2015 Jan;35(1):43-53. doi: 10.1002/phar.1545.


In March 2014, the largest Ebola outbreak in history exploded across West Africa. As of November 14, 2014, the World Health Organization has reported a total of 21,296 Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases, including 13,427 laboratory-confirmed EVD cases reported from the three most affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone). As the outbreak of EVD has spread, clinical disease severity and national EVD case-fatality rates have remained high (21.2-60.8%). Prior to 2013, several EVD outbreaks were controlled by using routine public health interventions; however, the widespread nature of the current EVD outbreak as well as cultural practices in the affected countries have challenged even the most active case identification efforts. In addition, although treatment centers provide supportive care, no effective therapeutic agents are available for EVD-endemic countries. The ongoing EVD outbreak has stimulated investigation of several different therapeutic strategies that target specific viral structures and mechanisms of Ebola viruses. Six to eight putative pharmacotherapies or immunologically based treatments have demonstrated promising results in animal studies. In addition, agents composed of small interfering RNAs targeting specific proteins of Ebola viruses, traditional hyperimmune globulin isolated from Ebola animal models, monoclonal antibodies, and morpholino oligomers (small molecules used to block viral gene expression). A number of EVD therapeutic agents are now entering accelerated human trials in EVD-endemic countries. The goal of therapeutic agent development includes postexposure prevention and EVD cure. As knowledge of Ebola virus virology and pathogenesis grows, it is likely that new therapeutic tools will be developed. Deployment of novel Ebola therapies will require unprecedented cooperation as well as investment to ensure that therapeutic tools become available to populations at greatest risk for EVD and its complications. In this article, we review several agents and strategies that are now under active development.

Keywords: ebola; filovirus; hemorrhagic fever; immunization; infection; postexposure prophylaxis; therapy; treatment; vaccine; viral diseases; virus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Western / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Drug Discovery
  • Ebolavirus / drug effects
  • Ebolavirus / pathogenicity*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / drug therapy*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / immunology
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Primary Prevention
  • Secondary Prevention


  • Antiviral Agents