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Ebola drugs for West Africa

August 13, 2014

Canada has said it is donating doses of an experimental Ebola drug to fight the ongoing outbreak in West Africa. The announcement comes after the World Health Organization deemed it ethical to use the untested drugs.

Image: Getty Images

On Tuesday, Canadian Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Canada would donate 800 to 1,000 doses of its experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organization (WHO). Earlier on Tuesday, the WHO approved the use of experimental drugs to fight the virus.

"Our government is committed to doing everything we can to support our international partners, including providing staff to assist with the outbreak response, funding and access to our experimental vaccine," Ambrose said in a statement.

The government says the drug - which the Public Health Agency of Canada licensed for commercialization to US firm BioProtection Systems, a unit of Newlink Genetics - has never been tested in humans but has shown promise in animals.

On Monday, a US company that also makes an experimental vaccine - known as ZMapp made by Mapp Biopharmaceuticals - announced that it sent all of its available supply of the treatment at no cost to West Africa, without naming any countries specifically. The US has confirmed that some doses went to Liberia.

A Spanish priest who had just begun taking the experimental drug became the first European to succumb to the virus this year when he died on Tuesday. Two US missionaries infected in Liberia have made some progress in a hospital in the state of Georgia, where they are also taking the drug.

Since the beginning of the year, the disease has killed more than 1,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

The highly contagious virus is a form of hemorrhagic fever that can cause severe fever, unstoppable bleeding and organ failure. There is no known cure.

hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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