A clinical drug trial is now under way at a major health centre in Liberia's capital to determine if a medication already used to treat other viruses could help those suffering from Ebola.

The drug called brincidofovir is being tested in patients at the ELWA 3 centre operated by Doctors Without Borders, the group said.

Ebola, which has no licensed treatment or cure, has killed more than 8,153 people in West Africa over the past year.

Liberia has seen the highest fatality rate with 3,471 deaths, followed by Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"It must be stressed that it is not a miracle cure and it is still not known whether it will help patients survive the virus," the medical charity said in announcing the start of the drug trial this week.

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Brincidofovir is an antiviral drug being developed to treat several types of viruses, including one that infects patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.

All new patients confirmed to be Ebola positive by blood test at the ELWA 3 centre will be informed about the trial and can decide whether they would like to participate, the group said.

Those who opt out will receive the usual supportive care.

Brincidofovir is not the only drug being considered for use in treating Ebola.

Another drug, ZMapp, healed 18 monkeys infected with the deadly virus in one recent study.

Experimental doses of ZMapp also were given to several humans who suffered from Ebola before the manufacturer's supply ran out months ago.

It was not known whether the doses of ZMapp helped the patients who recovered.

A third drug, the TKM-Ebola injection, by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals of Canada, works by blocking genes that help the Ebola virus reproduce and spread.

Human trials

Also on Tuesday, US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson said that it has started human trials on a possible vaccine against the virus.

The Phase I testing is being carried out by the Oxford Vaccine Group at Britain's Oxford University.

The tests, involving 72 healthy volunteers, will examine how their bodies tolerate the potential vaccine.

If necessary, Johnson & Johnson said it can make five million doses within 12 to 18 months.

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Source: Agencies