There is currently an urgent need for a viable, cheap, and readily available treatment for the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. Here, it is proposed that melatonin may have significant utility in helping the management of this outbreak.
Optimizing natural killer (NK) cell responses seems crucial to surviving Ebola virus infection. Melatonin increases NK cell cytotoxicity significantly, suggesting efficacy in managing the Ebola virus. Under conditions of challenge, melatonin increases heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), which inhibits Ebola virus replication. Melatonin also has protective effects in cases of septic shock, which, although bacterial, has similar end-point presentations involving blood vessel leakage. Melatonin’s effects on haemorrhage are mediated primarily by a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines. By optimizing the appropriate immune response, melatonin is likely to afford protection to those at high risk of Ebola viral infection, as well as having direct impacts on the course of infection per se.
Although no direct data pertain to the utility of melatonin in the management of the Ebola virus, convergent bodies of data suggest its utility, which is reviewed in this article.