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Antiviral Rx May Help Prevent Ebola Small Study Suggests

Health care workers on antiviral regimen didn't develop disease after exposure

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Antiviral drugs may help protect people from developing Ebola after exposure to the virus, a new case study suggests. The results were published online Aug. 25 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The new research included eight British health care workers who were possibly exposed to the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone between January and March of 2015. After their possible exposure, they were evacuated to the Royal Free Hospital in London. Four of the health care workers had needlestick injuries and were believed to be at significant risk of exposure to Ebola. They were treated with the antiviral drug favipiravir. The other four health care workers were considered to be at lower risk for Ebola. They weren't given the drug, but were closely monitored instead.

All eight patients remained healthy over 42 days of follow-up, the study authors said. None had any detectable levels of the Ebola virus in their blood and no one showed any signs of disease. There were no serious side effects among the four patients who took the antiviral drug, the researchers found.

"It is possible that none of these health care workers were infected with Ebola virus. Therefore, we cannot know for sure whether or not postexposure prophylaxis prevented the onset of Ebola virus disease," lead author Michael Jacobs, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., of the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust in London, said in a journal news release. "However, two of the workers had needlestick injuries contaminated with fresh blood from patients with Ebola virus disease putting them at very high risk of transmission."

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