Japan to provide anti-influenza drugs to stop Ebola | News | DW | 25.08.2014
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Japan to provide anti-influenza drugs to stop Ebola

Japan has offered to deliver an experimental serum to combat the Ebola virus, one initially designed to treat influenza. The World Health Organization is working on an approved Ebola treatment with several companies.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday that Japan would like to offer an anti-influenza drug that has not yet been approved by the World Health Organization to help combat Ebola in West Africa. He said the drug "favipiravir," developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings, could be delivered immediately.

The flu treatment was approved by the Japanese health ministry in March. Fujifilm spokesman Takao Aoki said that the company was in talks with US authorities about starting clinical testing of favipiravir as an Ebola treatment. Aoki said that developers currently had enough stock to treat around 20,000 patients.

The drug works by inhibiting viral gene replication, which, according to Fuijfilm, is a promising feature.

The World Health Organization is racing to field test treatments for Ebola amid the virus' largest outbreak since its discovery in the 1970s. The UN's health body said last month that, considering the severity of the outbreak, some shortcuts or deviations from usual testing procedures would be acceptable.

ZMapp

Another experimental drug, the US-produced ZMapp - which had never been tested on humans prior to this year's Ebola outbreak - has been used to treat patients, two of whom have recovered in the US.

Two American aid workers were successfully treated at a hospital in Atlanta, in the US state of Georgia, after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia. Fifty-nine-year-old Nancy Writebol and 33-year-old Kent Brantly were released last Thursday after being admitted to hospital in the US in early August. It's not clear whether ZMapp was the cause for their recovery.

In some cases, the drug has been used without success. On Monday, of the death of Abraham Borbor, a Liberian doctor who had been treated with ZMapp, was reported. Prior to that, Miguel Pajares, a 75-year-old Spanish priest, died after being treated with the drug in a hospital in Madrid earlier in the month.

Virus spreads to DRC

The Ebola virus is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids and was first discovered in the 1970s.

The current outbreak is said to have started around March this year. A number of countries have sealed off their borders to affected countries and issued travel bans to and from those areas.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has become the fifth African country - after Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria - to confirm cases of the Ebola outbreak.

Of eight people suffering from a mystery fever to undergo tests in the DRC, two tested positive for Ebola. The World Health Organization has announced it will send supplies to medical staff to treat Ebola there.

"The results are positive. The Ebola virus is confirmed in DRC," Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said on Sunday. However, he later said that both patients had different strains of the Ebola virus to the one prevalent elsewhere on the continent - saying this meant that the case had "no link to the epidemic raging in West Africa."

The World Health Organization (WHO) had previously announced on Thursday that 70 people had died in an outbreak of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis but that the outbreak was not Ebola.

Over 2,600 infections and 1,400 deaths have been recorded in this year's outbreak, including in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Liberia has seen the most deaths, at more than 600, with the disease's presence now confirmed in all regions of the country.

sb/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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