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Trials of Experimental Ebola Therapies to Begin

They include antiviral drugs and blood plasma transfusions, health officials say

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THURSDAY, Nov. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Trials of therapies that might prove effective against Ebola will begin in December in West Africa, the epicenter of the worst Ebola outbreak ever, health officials said Thursday.

The therapies will include two antiviral drugs -- one from the United States and one from Japan. They have been approved for certain uses -- the Japanese drug is given to treat influenza, for instance -- but they haven't been tested as therapies for Ebola.

The researchers hope to have trial results back by February 2015. The World Health Organization and the humanitarian medical group Doctors Without Borders will be involved with some of the trials.

"These drugs have both already been used in other indications, so they are off-label drugs," said Dr. Annick Antierens, of Doctors Without Borders. "They have not been approved and they have not been tested in humans for the treatment of Ebola."

Antierens also said the trials will include using blood plasma donated by Ebola survivors -- a technique that has been employed in the past to treat patients in Africa, the United States and elsewhere. Doctors believe the plasma likely contains antibodies that can fight the deadly virus, but it's never been proven that the approach actually works.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which began last spring, has caused more than 14,000 infections and more than 5,000 deaths. The overwhelming majority of cases have occurred in the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Thursday, the president of Liberia said she was ending a state of emergency put in place to control the Ebola outbreak that has ravaged the country. But, she added, the move does not mean the outbreak is over, the Associated Press reported.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said there's been enough progress to allow the lifting of emergency measures, which included banning large public gatherings, shutting some markets and allowing the government to restrict people's movements. Schools remain closed, however, the news service said.

Sirleaf said there have been fewer cases of Ebola cases in the capital city of Monrovia, although there have been some new outbreaks that include an area near the border with Sierra Leone.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: World Health Organization; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Associated Press


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