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U.S. Boosts New Ebola Drug

Health workers rest outside a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, eastern Sierra Leone, on Dec. 19. December 19, 2014. Sierra Leone, neighboring Guinea and Liberia are at the heart of the world's worst recorded outbreak of Ebola. BAZ RATNER / Reuters

The U.S. government says it will help develop a new Ebola drug — one of five drugs that are being tested against the deadly virus.

This one's made by North Carolina-based BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.

"BioCryst's drug, BCX4430, is a small molecule that prevents the Ebola virus from reproducing in the body," the Health and Human Services Department said in a statement. "Small molecule" means it can be taken as a pill.

"In non-human primate studies, the drug was effective against Ebola virus and Marburg virus, another virus in the filovirus family, indicating that BCX4430 may be useful as a broad spectrum antiviral drug."

It's being developed alongside ZMapp, Mapp Biopharmaceuticals' antibody-based treatment; Canadian company Tekmira's drug that interferes with genetic material; an antiviral called favipiravir and blood-based treatments using plasma from Ebola survivors.

Makers of a pill called brincidofovir have stopped testing it.

What's Out There to Treat Ebola? 0:42

"We are making progress quickly to develop product candidates for clinical evaluation and to make products available that protect against this virus," said Robin Robinson, who directs HHS's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

More than 25,000 people have been infected with Ebola, according to the latest report from the World Health Organization, and more than 10,000 deaths have been recorded, although at least half and likely more of the patients have died, WHO says.

Officials say as long as Ebola is circulating, people can bring it to the United States. An American with Ebola is listed in fair condition at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. That patient and another 16 Americans were evacuated from Sierra Leone earlier this month.

On Tuesday, the University of Nebraska said five of the people quarantined there have been released after showing no signs of Ebola for 21 days.