Experimental drug from Japan may help fight Ebola crisis

(Photo: REUTERS / 2Tango)Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) health workers prepare at ELWA's isolation camp during the visit of Senior United Nations (U.N.) System Coordinator for Ebola David Nabarro, at the camp in Monrovia August 23, 2014.As the outbreak has spread across borders from its initial epicenter in Guinea, governments in the region have introduced increasingly strict travel restrictions. Ivory Coast has closed its land borders Guinea and Liberia to try to prevent the virus from crossing onto its territory, the government announced late on Friday

Japan's chief government spokesperson has said his country is willing to offer an experimental anti-viral drug to help treat the deadly Ebola virus.

The announcement came on Monday a day after the Democratic Republic of Congo declared there was an Ebola outbreak in its northern Equateur province, Reuters news agency reported.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan has received inquiries about the influenza drug favipiravir.

The drug, known under the brand name Avignan, has been approved by Japan's Ministry of Health to treat the flu virus. However, the drug has not been tested on human beings with Ebola.

But favipiravir could prove to be helpful. Manufacturers say that Ebola and influenza viruses are of the same type and a similar response can "theoretically be expected from both."

To date, almost 1,500 people have been killed by the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

There is no known cure or treatment for the disease, which has a fatality rate estimated at between 60 and 90 per cent.


Two U.S. missionaries, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, contracted the Ebola virus while caring for patients in Liberia.

They received an experimental drug, ZMapp and are now fully recovered.

Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, said that the doctors still don't know if the experimental drug played any role in helping the patients survive.

But patients' better nutrition and stronger immune systems may have aided their recovery.

U.S.-based manufacturer Mapp Biopharmaceutical revealed that its supply of ZMapp are used up after treating the patients.

Favipiravir may help with more people dying and experimental drugs exhausted.

Japan, according to Yoshihide, may respond to medical requests for favipiravir even before the World Health Organization's approval.

The U.N. agency confirmed this saying that it is ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients given the urgency of the situation.

Fujifilm spokesman Takao Aki revealed that there are talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the clinical testing of favipiravir to treat Ebola.

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