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Experimental new drug offers promise in fight against measles

WASHINGTON--An experimental antiviral drug taken orally could help contribute to the eradication of measles, an infection responsible for thousands of deaths per year, scientists said in a report Wednesday.

The drug, so far tested on animals, has been effective on a virus closely related to the one that causes measles, having reduced virus levels and prevented death.

Despite major progress to contain the highly-contagious disease worldwide, measles has caused around 150,000 deaths annually since 2007, according to the study, which appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

A European resurgence of the measles-causing morbillivirus, previously considered contained on that continent, is due in large part to insufficient vaccination rates, mostly because parents opt out of vaccinating their children.

Researchers tested the drug, ERDRP-0519, on the canine distemper virus, which is deadly in ferrets.

Treatment with the new antivirus, which blocks replication of the pathogen, allowed the animals to survive infection, remain disease-free and develop a robust immunity against the virus.

“The emergence of strong antiviral immunity in treated animals is particularly encouraging, since it suggests that the drug may not only save an infected individual from disease but contribute to closing measles immunity gaps in a population,” said Richard Plemper of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University.

The new antivirus was developed by the facility, along with the Emory Institute for Drug Development and the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute in Germany.

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