As Ebola continues to surge in Sierra Leone, a team of researchers have found more than 50 drugs that may help fight the deadly virus.

There are no new cases of Ebola in the United States, and all contacts of Ebola cases here have completed the 21-day follow-up period. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is continuing to monitor a person who had high-risk exposure while working as a healthcare worker in Sierra Leone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from the current Ebola virus outbreak has reached 6,841. As of this writing, Sierra Leone now has the highest number of reported cases of the three hardest hit nations in West Africa, with 8,273 cases.

According to a CTV News report, Ebola teams were sent to Sierra Leone’s capital to search every house for sick people. President Ernest Bai Koroma cancelled Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. He banned all public gatherings during the holidays as well as movement between districts.

Koroma also reportedly promised that treatment beds, labs, and ambulances are ready to handle any new Ebola cases.

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There may be a hint of good news. A team of researchers has found 53 existing drugs that may keep the Ebola virus from entering human cells.

The study, led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the NIH, was published today in the journal Emerging Microbes and Infections.

The research team used high-speed technology to screen through sample libraries of 2,816 compounds that are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for other uses. Their investigation was designed to identify compounds that blocked the ability of the Ebola virus to enter and infect human cells by at least 50 percent.

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The team found 53 drugs that block Ebola virus-like particles from entering human cells. The most promising drugs were those used to treat cancer and depression, as well as antihistamines and antibiotics.

Lead study author Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, Ph.D., director of the Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told Healthline, “Not all of these drugs will work, but we hope some of them will. The dose that is required for treatment may be too toxic. These are still things that need to be studied. But at least there are some promising candidates that can be tested quickly. Then we can see whether any of these drugs are promising when used alone or in combination with other drugs to make a big impact on decreasing disease and mortality.”

If any of the drugs prove to be safe and effective in future animal studies, the government may use them in the outbreak areas.

Garcia-Sastre said a vaccine is still the best defense against Ebola. But until a vaccine is available, he said, “We should try to do as much as we can from a scientific point of view to see if we can make an impact on this disease. The sooner there is treatment available that is affordable, the more lives will be saved.”

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In a separate development, a new article published in Reproductive Sciences, advises that men who are recovering from Ebola should not have sex. If they do, they should wear condoms for at least three months after their recovery.

The authors studied research from 1977 to 2007 on men whose Ebola symptoms were fading. They found only four studies that report male survivors of Ebola who donated semen while recovering. For these men, the virus remained in their semen for an average of 66.6 days. In one case, the virus remained for 91 days.

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