Trials of untested Ebola drugs begin in West Africa

Tue Jan 6, 2015 4:43pm GMT

By James Harding Giahyue

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Medical charities say they have started trials of untested drug treatments on Ebola patients in Liberia and Guinea for the first time in an effort to control an epidemic that has killed more than 8,000 people in the region.

The World Health Organization gave its approval for the use of experimental drugs on West African Ebola patients in August, but it has taken months to organise trials and get limited supplies of the drugs to the affected countries.

Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Tuesday it began giving brincidofovir, developed by North Carolina-based Chimerix Inc, to consenting confirmed Ebola patients this month at the ELWA 3 centre in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

Dr. Jake Dunning from Oxford University, which is leading the trials, said the antiviral drug has been effective in laboratory tests against Ebola-infected cells.

"What we don't know yet is if it will be effective against Ebola in humans. This is why we must do a trial," he said.

In Guinea, where the haemorrhagic fever first emerged deep in the jungle more than a year ago, trials of an experimental Japanese drug have begun in two Ebola treatment centres - Gueckedou and Nzerekore.

The drug Avigan, or favipiravir - developed by Toyama Chemical, a subsidiary of Japan's Fujifilm - was created as a flu treatment. It was administered to a Cuban doctor in a Swiss hospital in December after he contracted the virus in Sierra Leone. He survived.

Johnson & Johnson announced the start of clinical tests with a third experimental vaccine earlier on Tuesday .   Continued...

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