FDA approves first treatment for smallpox virus

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The FDA approved the first treatment for the smallpox virus in case of a biological terror attack.

The FDA has approved the first treatment for smallpox in case the virus is used in a terror attack.

The highly contagious disease was eradicated by 1980 through vaccines, but small samples were saved for research purposes.

Officials say this means the virus could be used as a biological weapon or as part of a terror attack.

The treatment was created by a New York-based company that is now being stockpiled by the U.S. government.

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.

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 virus, well before symptoms appear.

"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.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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