The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat smallpox in case the deadly virus is used in a terror attack. The disease was eradicated worldwide four decades ago when a vaccination campaign began.
However, since then, many people haven’t been vaccinated. Samples of the smallpox virus were kept for research purposes, but that also means they could be used as a biological weapon.
SIGA Technologies, New York, delivered 2 million treatments to be stocked by the government in case of urgency. The government paid for part of the development of the drug, which is called TPOXX.
The drugs went through several trials. It was first tested on monkeys and rabbits that were infected with a similar virus. They received the drug and over 90% of the animals survived. Then, the safety of the drug was tested on a few hundreds of healthy volunteers. They were not infected with smallpox.
Before being wiped out in the 20th century, smallpox killed almost 300 million people all over the world.
Smallpox: Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of smallpox are fever, fatigue, and sores filled with pus. Until now, the only way for the doctors to treat the disease was to support the patients’ bodies with more fluids, treat the fever, and isolate them.
There is a vaccine for smallpox, but it can only prevent infection if is done five days before exposure to the virus – a moment when symptoms of infection don’t show up.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, stated:
“This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon.”
The treatment consists of a capsule which must be taken twice a day for two weeks.
SIGA is a developer of treatments (vaccines or medicines) in cases of biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear attacks. Phil Gomez, the Chief Executive of the company, said that they’re now working on an IV version of the smallpox treatment. They’re also thinking of selling the drug to countries that need it to treat other similar infectious diseases, like monkeypox (the virus is transmitted from African monkeys to humans), which has a rate of mortality of almost 15 percent.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.