FDA OKs 1st drug to treat smallpox, in case of terror attack

July 14, 2018 by Linda A. Johnson
This 1975 microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a cluster of smallpox viruses. On Friday, July 13, 2018, U.S. regulators announced the approval of the first treatment for smallpox—a deadly disease that was wiped out four decades ago—in case the virus is used in a terror attack. (Fred Murphy/CDC via AP)

U.S. regulators Friday approved the first treatment for smallpox—a deadly disease that was wiped out four decades ago—in case the virus is used in a terror attack.

Smallpox, which is highly contagious, was eradicated worldwide by 1980 after a huge vaccination campaign.

But people born since then haven't been vaccinated, and small samples of the were saved for research purposes, leaving the possibility it could be used as a .

Maker SIGA Technologies of New York has already delivered 2 million treatments that will be stockpiled by the government, which partially paid for the development of the drug, called TPOXX.

To test the drug's effectiveness, monkeys and rabbits were infected with a similar virus and then given the drug. More than 90 percent survived, the company said. Its safety was tested in several hundred healthy volunteers, who were not infected with .

Smallpox killed about 300 million people worldwide in the 20th century before its eradication. Symptoms include fever, fatigue and pus-filled sores. Until now, doctors could only provide supportive care such as IV fluids and fever remedies and isolate the patients. Vaccination can be used to prevent infection but it must be done within five days of exposure to the , well before symptoms appear.

FDA OKs 1st drug to treat smallpox, in case of terror attack
This undated photo provided by SIGA in July 2018 shows capsules of the drug TPOXX. On Friday, July 13, 2018, U.S. regulators announced the approval of the first treatment for smallpox—a deadly disease that was wiped out four decades ago—in case the virus is used in a terror attack. (SIGA via AP)

"This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, head of the Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement.

The drug is a capsule, taken twice daily for 14 days.

SIGA develops vaccines and medicines for biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear attacks. Chief Executive Phil Gomez said the company is developing an IV version and is exploring selling the to other countries and developing it to treat other infectious diseases, including monkeypox, which African monkeys can transmit to humans. Monkeypox can then spread among people, and has a mortality rate of about 15 percent.

Explore further: Compound in red wine, chocolate prevents smallpox virus cousins from replicating

Related Stories

Compound in red wine, chocolate prevents smallpox virus cousins from replicating

March 1, 2018
The secret to stopping some viruses from making people sick might be hidden in red wine and chocolate—but that doesn't mean having more bonbons and vino is in order, Kansas State University researchers say.

Researchers pinpoint where smallpox outbreak would hit hardest

March 2, 2018
The ease of creating a smallpox-like virus, and the growing number of vulnerable people with weakened immune systems, present challenges for emergency response planners, researchers have warned.

New pox discovered in Eastern Europe, but not deadly

March 25, 2015
Health officials have discovered a new germ in Eastern Europe that is related to the dreaded smallpox and monkeypox viruses but so far seems far less threatening.

Man who got smallpox vaccine passes milder infection to sex partner

February 28, 2013
(HealthDay)—A man recently vaccinated for smallpox under a U.S. Defense Department program passed a milder, related form of the disease on to a man he had sex with, and that man then passed it on to yet another man, federal ...

Smallpox vaccine study yields favorable results

February 7, 2018
Officials from Bavarian Nordic yesterday announced the results of a successful Phase 3 clinical trial led by USAMRIID that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the company's investigational, non-replicating smallpox vaccine, ...

Recommended for you

Deadly Rift Valley fever: New insight, and hope for the future

July 19, 2018
Health control measures alone could be ineffective in the long term fight against the deadly Rift Valley fever which affects both humans and animals, a new study in the journal PNAS reports.

Yeast species used in food industry causes disease in humans

July 19, 2018
A major cause of drug-resistant clinical yeast infections is the same species previously regarded as non-pathogenic and commonly used in the biotechnology and food industries. The study, published on July 19th in the open-access ...

New guidelines to diagnose, manage rare endocrine disorders

July 19, 2018
International guidelines have been published for the first time to help doctors around the globe diagnose and manage patients with a very rare set of endocrine diseases known as pseudohypoparathyroidism and its related disorders, ...

Overuse of antibiotics not what the doctor ordered

July 19, 2018
With increased use of antibiotics worldwide linked to growing antibiotic resistance, a world-first study co-authored by a QUT researcher has highlighted the growing impact of non-prescription supply of antibiotics in community ...

Alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths skyrocket in young adults

July 18, 2018
Deaths from cirrhosis rose in all but one state between 1999-2016, with increases seen most often among young adults, a new study shows.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.