Review Article

Treating the host response to emerging virus diseases: lessons learned from sepsis, pneumonia, influenza and Ebola

David S. Fedson


There is an ongoing threat of epidemic or pandemic diseases that could be caused by influenza, Ebola or other emerging viruses. It will be difficult and costly to develop new drugs that target each of these viruses. Statins and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) have been effective in treating patients with sepsis, pneumonia and influenza, and a statin/ARB combination appeared to dramatically reduce mortality during the recent Ebola outbreak. These drugs target (among other things) the endothelial dysfunction found in all of these diseases. Most scientists work on new drugs that target viruses, and few accept the idea of treating the host response with generic drugs. A great deal of research will be needed to show conclusively that these drugs work, and this will require the support of public agencies and foundations. Investigators in developing countries should take an active role in this research. If the next Public Health Emergency of International Concern is caused by an emerging virus, a “top down” approach to developing specific new drug treatments is unlikely to be effective. However, a “bottom up” approach to treatment that targets the host response to these viruses by using widely available and inexpensive generic drugs could reduce mortality in any country with a basic health care system. In doing so, it would make an immeasurable contribution to global equity and global security.

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