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Drug sent from China to aid workers in Africa

Updated: 2014-10-17 07:07
By Reuters (China Daily)

A Chinese drugmaker has sent an experimental Ebola drug to Africa for use by Chinese aid workers and is planning clinical trials there to combat the disease, executives at the firm said on Thursday.

Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings Group has supplied several thousand doses of its drug JK-05 to the region, Chief Operating Officer Jia Zhongxin said. More could be sent if needed, Jia said.

JK-05 has not been used on humans, although Sihuan says it has been effective in tests on mice.

Its development lags behind US-developed Zmapp and TKM-Ebola, which have been tested on monkeys and used on Ebola patients. However, analysts said the drug's similarities to Japanese influenza drug Favipiravir is an encouraging sign.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the worst on record, has killed more than 4,000 people.

Governments and drugmakers worldwide have been racing to find a treatment for the outbreak, which has spread as far as the United States and Europe. US President Barack Obama has promised to get more "aggressive" against the disease.

Huo Caixia, Sihuan's assistant general manager, said, "Aid workers have already taken the drug with them, and if a case breaks out (among the aid workers), then the drug may be used." Sihuan, part-owned by US investment bank Morgan Stanley, is hoping to get the drug fast-tracked for civilian use in China. It has signed an agreement with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, a research unit, to seek approval for the drug's use in China and push it on to the market.

The drug, approved in China for emergency military use only, was initially developed by the academy.

If it proves to be an effective cure it would be a big prize for the nation's medical sector and a boost for China's soft power in Africa.

President Xi Jinping was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying on Wednesday, "We will continue to work together with the international community to fight against the Ebola epidemic."

Huo said Sihuan is preparing for clinical trials in Africa and could test the drug on African Ebola patients. No Chinese nationals have been infected.

About 1 million Chinese nationals live in Africa, some 10,000 in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the countries most affected by Ebola.

China has sent hundreds of aid workers to the continent to help fight the outbreak and more than $35 million in medical aid to the worst affected countries.



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