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WHO approves experimental treatment for Ebola

Health body says it is ethical to use untested drugs in fight against disease that has killed more than a thousand.

Last updated: 12 Aug 2014 14:58
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the use of untested Ebola drugs to treat the current outbreak in West Africa. 

The WHO said at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday that the use of untested drugs was ethical, provided certain conditions were met.

The statement comes following a meeting of medical experts asked to assess the ethics of using untested drugs in the outbreak. 

Two batches of experimental treatments were reported to be heading to Liberia on Tuesday, the first delivery of untested Ebola drugs in Africa.

The UN health agency said more than 1000 people had died so far from the illness in West Africa, with authorities recording 1,848 suspected or confirmed cases.

The virus, spread by direct contact with bodily fluids was detected in Guinea in March and has since spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and possibly Nigeria.

Death rate 

Two Americans and a Spanish priest, who contracted Ebola in Liberia, had received a dose of the treatment never tested in humans. The Americans have showed signs of improvement but the priest died on Tuesday. 

The vast majority of Ebola victims are Africans, and some have protested that their citizens are not getting access to the novel drugs.

There is no evidence yet that experimental drugs can actually help fight Ebola, and it is possible they could be harmful.

The outbreak has had about a 50 percent death rate, according to the UN, adding urgency to the search for a treatment.

WHO also said the world had "a moral duty" to properly collect evidence about the untested treatment's safety and effectiveness in a proper scientific trial, the AP news agency reported.

West African nations are struggling to control both the deadly outbreak and the fear it has engendered. Most airlines flying in and out of the Liberian capital of Monrovia have suspended flights amid the unprecedented health crisis.

The Ivory Coast, which shares borders with Liberia and Guinea, as banned direct flights from those countries and said it would increase health inspections at its borders.

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