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Last updated at 10:20 BST, Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ebola drug to be tested on humans

Summary

23 August 2010

Scientists developing a drug to treat the Ebola virus have been given permission to test it on humans. Authorities in the United States approved limited clinical trials after the treatment was shown to be effective in monkeys.

Reporter
Iain Mackenzie

rhesus monkeys

The new drug cured Ebola in 60% of rhesus monkeys tested.

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Report

Ebola is even more deadly to monkeys than humans. If they get it they die. However in tests, the new treatment cured 60% of them. It also proved 100% effective in dealing with the closely-related Marburg virus. The hope is that these results will be replicated or even bettered when the drug is given to humans.

Ebola has killed around 1,200 people since it was discovered during the mid-1970s in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far, outbreaks have been limited to Africa where it's thought to be carried by fruit bats.

Ebola can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, with victims suffering internal bleeding and organ failure before they die. The virus's high mortality rate has led to fears that it could be used in bioterrorism.

Funding for research into Ebola was stepped up in the United States following the attacks of September 11th 2001. The new treatment has been developed by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, along with a private company called AVI-BioPharma. Details of the research appear in the science journal Nature Medicine.

Iain Mackenzie, BBC News, Washington

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Vocabulary

treatment

remedy or cure

replicated

repeated in exactly the same way

outbreaks

sudden occurrences of a disease

transmitted

passed from one person to another

bodily fluids

liquids produced by the human body, such as blood or saliva

symptoms

indications of a disease

nausea

sick feeling, like you are about to vomit

mortality rate

number of deaths caused by the disease

bioterrorism

acts of political violence using harmful substances such as diseases or bacteria

infectious diseases

illnesses that are passed on easily from person to person

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