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Ebola outbreak: Japan offers experimental anti-flu drug to World Health Organisation for Ebola treatment

Favipiravir has not been tested on Ebola but scientists say it could work
  • @lizziedearden

Japan is offering an experimental anti-viral drug called favipiravir as a possible treatment for the Ebola virus.

The drug, known under the brand name Avignan, has been approved by Japan’s health ministry for use against flu but has not been tested on humans with Ebola.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said its manufacturers, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp, can ship the drug at any time on the request of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Almost 1,500 people have so far been killed by the Ebola outbreak since March in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

There is known cure or treatment for the disease, which has a fatality rate estimated at between 60 and 90 per cent.


Despite the recovery of the two American humanitarian workers treated with another experimental drug, ZMapp, a Spanish priest and Liberian doctor given the treatment have died.

It was not possible to determine whether the American workers had recovered naturally like other Ebola survivors or whether it was due to the serum.

Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who has died from Ebola, with a patient in Liberia

Only six people in the world are known to have received ZMapp and the small supply is now said to be exhausted.

Fujifilm is in talks with the US Food and Drug Administration over the clinical testing of favipiravir in treating Ebola, company spokesman Takao Aoki said.

He said Ebola and influenza viruses are the same general type and a similar response can theoretically be expected from both.

Favipiravir inhibits viral gene replication within infected cells to prevent propagation, while other anti-viral drugs often are designed to inhibit the release of new viral particles to prevent the spread of infection, the company said.

It has enough stock of favipiravir for more than 20,000 patients.

Mr Suga said Japan is waiting for a decision by WHO that would provide greater guidance on the use of untested drugs against Ebola.

In case of an emergency, Japan may respond to individual requests before any further decision by WHO, he said.

The UN agency said earlier this month that it is ethical to use untested drugs on Ebola patients given the magnitude of the outbreak.

Although several drugs are being developed for the treatment of the virus, they are still in the early stages.

The first Briton to contract the deadly virus arrived back in England from Sierra Leone on Sunday.

The patient, named as 29-year-old William Pooley, had been working with victims as a nurse and is being treated in a specialist isolation unit.

Additional reporting by AP