Scientists close to Ebola treatment23rd August 2010
US scientists have been given permission to conduct human trials in tests on a new drug to treat the deadly Ebola virus.
The clearance came after the drug, developed jointly by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and private company AVI BioPharma, cured Ebola in 60% of rhesus monkeys tested.
Ebola causes a haemmhoragic fever in which those infected suffer vomiting, internal bleeding and organ failure.
It kills 90% of humans who catch it.
Governments fear that while the disease is relatively rare, it might be used as a bioweapon by terrorists.
US officials stepped up funding for the research into a treatment for Ebola after the September 11th attacks in 2001.
Since 1976, there have been around 1,200 confirmed deaths from the virus, which is transmitted via bodily fluids.
Tests on rhesus monkeys showed that the new drug successfully treated Ebola in 60% of rhesus monkeys.
And in cynomolgus monkeys, it proved 100% effective in treating the closely-related Marburg virus.
A small group of human volunteers will now trial the drug, following clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Experts say, however, that a full vaccine will take much longer to develop, and that more extensive trials and assessments will be needed.
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