Japan ready to offer flu drug for Ebola treatment

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Japan ready to offer flu drug for Ebola treatment
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, health workers wearing protective clothing and equipment against the deadly Ebola virus sit at the Kenema Government Hospital situated in the Eastern Province around 300 km, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, health workers, center rear, screen people for the deadly Ebola virus before entering the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, health worker wearing protective clothing and equipment, out of fear for the deadly Ebola virus, sit at a desk at the Kenema Government Hospital situated in the Eastern Province in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a health worker wearing protective clothing and equipment, await patients to screen against the deadly Ebola virus at the Kenema Government Hospital situated in the Eastern Province in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a health worker carries equipment used to decontaminate clothing and equipment against the Ebola virus at the Kenema Government Hospital situated in the Eastern Province around 300 km, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown in Kenema, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, volunteers prepare basic supplies donated to the Ebola treatment center by American donors, as they fight the deadly Ebola virus at the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a health worker wearing a protective clothing spray disinfectant against the deadly Ebola virus at the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, an ambulance parks at the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/ Michael Duff)
In this photo taken on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, health workers stand as Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, back left, arrives to deliver a speech imploring them to keep working at the health centers with government support, to combat the deadly Ebola virus that has spread through the country, including the city of Monrovia, Liberia. The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak an international health emergency Friday. The growing unease in Liberia, where nearly 300 people have died from the gruesome disease, raises the specter of social unrest. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
In this photo taken on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks to health workers asking that they should keep working at the health centers with government support, to combat the deadly Ebola virus that has spread through the country, including the city of Monrovia, Liberia. Liberia has launched "Operation White Shield" under which soldiers are deployed in different locations and at checkpoints outside the capital to discourage residents' movements, part of Sirleaf's emergency measures to better fight the disease. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
In this image taken Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 a large billboard promoting the washing of hands to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia. Over the decades, Ebola cases have been confirmed in 10 African countries, including Congo where the disease was first reported in 1976. But until this year, Ebola had never come to West Africa. (AP Photo/Jonathan Paye-Layleh)
Workers have their temperature taken before entering the Freeport area, an important commercial port facility, Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. Experts say fear and misunderstanding of Ebola have led many to ignore medical advice, fueling the disease's spread. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
Two Liberians greet each other with their elbows instead of shaking hands in a bar of Monrovia on September 2, 2014. International medical agency Medecins sans Frontieres said on September 2 the world was 'losing the battle' to contain Ebola as the United Nations warned of severe food shortages in the hardest-hit countries. The Ebola virus, transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has killed more than 1,500 people in four countries since the start of the year -- almost 700 of them in Liberia. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
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BY MARI YAMAGUCHI

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan said Monday it is ready to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as potential treatment to fight the rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan can offer the anti-influenza tablet favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., any time at the request of the World Health Organization.

Suga said Japan is watching for WHO's decision on further details over the use of untested drugs. In case of an emergency, Japan may respond to individual requests even before further any decision by the WHO, he said.

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

The drug, developed by a Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. to treat novel and re-emerging influenza viruses, was approved by the Japanese health ministry in March. Fujifilm is in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on clinical testing of the drug in treating Ebola, company spokesman Takao Aoki said.

The company has favipiravir stock for more than 20,000 patients, Aoki said.

He said Ebola and influenza viruses are the same type and theoretically similar effects can be expected on Ebola.

Several drugs are being developed for Ebola treatment. But they are still in early stages and there is no proven treatment or vaccine for the highly fatal disease, and Fujifilm's drug is one of only a few new drugs that may work on Ebola.

Favipiravir inhibits viral gene replication within infected cells to prevent propagation, while conventional ones are designed to inhibit the release of new viral particles to prevent the spread of infection, the company said.

Recently, two American doctors recovered from their bouts of Ebola after being treated with experimental drug ZMapp, though it was unclear whether they were cured by the drug.

ZMapp, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., had never been tested on humans, although an early version worked in some Ebola-infected monkeys. It's aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off Ebola.

Ebola has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa in the latest outbreak.

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