Research ArticleEbola

FDA-Approved Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators Inhibit Ebola Virus Infection

Science Translational Medicine  19 Jun 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 190, pp. 190ra79
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005471

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Fertile Strategy for Ebola Infection

Perhaps no virus has grasped the public’s imagination like Ebola virus. Although infection is rare, the threat from bioweapons and sporadic outbreaks is the stuff of nightmares. Our inability to treat infected individuals or even to prevent infection with therapeutics raises the stakes. Now, Johansen et al. have found that FDA-approved selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) could potentially be repurposed to treat Ebola virus infection.

The authors performed an in vitro screen to identify classes of compounds with antiviral activity against Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV). They found that SERMs, which have many uses that range from fertility treatments to breast cancer therapy, could inhibit EBOV infection both in vitro and in a mouse model. Somewhat surprisingly, this effect was not through on-target interactions with the estrogen receptor—the inhibition was still present in cells that lacked estrogen receptor expression. Instead, the compounds likely act late in viral entry, preventing viral fusion. These data support the off-target testing of SERMs for Ebola virus infection and suggest that screens of FDA-approved drugs to treat infectious diseases could yield fertile results.