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Ebola Virus Outbreak

New Ebola Drug TBM-Ebola OK’d for Emergency Use

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the way forward for emergency use of another experimental Ebola drug — this one made by the Canadian company Tekmira. The drug has been in human trials but they’d been stopped because of FDA concerns over the dose. "We have already responded to requests for the use of our investigational agent in several patients under emergency protocols ...,” Dr. Mark Murray, Tekmira's president and CEO, said in a statement. “We have worked with the FDA and Health Canada to establish this framework and a treatment protocol allowing us to do what we can to help these patients.”

The drug uses bits of genetic material called small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs for short. Viruses kill cells by invading them and taking over their machinery to force them to pump out copy after copy of virus. This drug doesn’t prevent infection, but stops the virus from replicating by attaching to its RNA. “TKM-Ebola has been administered to a number of patients and the repeat infusions have been well tolerated,” Murray said. But he noted that doctors treating Ebola patients usually use more than one treatment at the same time and the doctors who do treat Ebola patients say it is impossible to say whether experimental drugs like TKM-Ebola or ZMapp have helped. Rehydration may be as important, if not more so. The World Health Organization says Ebola has infected at least 5,800 people in the current epidemic, and 2,800 of them have died.

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— Maggie Fox