Japan offers flu drug for Ebola treatment

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Japan has expressed readiness to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as a possible treatment for the deadly and rapidly expanding Ebola virus in West Africa.

Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday, chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that the drug, developed by Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. under the brand name Avigan, could be supplied at any time at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Toyama Chemical Co. is currently engaged in negotiations with the US Food and Drug Administration on clinical testing of Avigan.

The company spokesman Takao Aoki said the Ebola and influenza viruses are the same type and a similar effect can theoretically be expected for the Ebola virus.

Avigan is said to inhibit viral gene replication within infected cells to prevent the spread of infection, while other anti-viral drugs inhibit the release of new viral particles to prevent propagation.

ZMapp, being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., is experimental treatment currently used with individuals infected with the Ebola virus. It has not yet been tested in humans for safety or effectiveness.

According to the WHO, Ebola has so far killed 1,427 people in West Africa. It has mainly affected Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, with Liberia reporting most deaths among the other countries.

Ebola is a form of hemorrhagic fever whose symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding.

The virus spreads through direct contact with infected blood, feces or sweat. It can also be spread through sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.

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