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3 already-approved drugs effective to treat monkeypox: Japan study

This electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases shows the monkeypox virus. (Photo courtesy of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases)

TOKYO -- A team of scientists including at Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases has said they have found three existing drugs that could be effective monkeypox treatments.

    Shingo Iwami, mathematical science professor at Nagoya University, said, "We want this finding to be used as a reference in clinical research to find a cure (for monkeypox)." The team's findings have been published online before peer review.

    The World Health Organization declared monkeypox, sweeping through many regions including Europe and the United States, a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" on July 23. Monkeypox deaths have been confirmed in and outside Africa, where the disease had been spreading before the global outbreak.

    In Japan, the health ministry announced on July 25 that the country's first monkeypox case had been confirmed.

    Smallpox medication tecovirimat is used to treat the disease in European countries and other places, but the potential efficacy of other existing medications was unknown.

    In their study, the scientific team administered 132 types of medication, including antiviral drugs already approved for use at home and abroad, to monkey cells infected with the monkeypox virus. If a drug proved effective, viral growth would be contained and cells wouldn't die.

    Repeated experiments showed that atovaquone, used to treat fungal pneumonia, anti-parasite medication mefloquine for malaria, and COVID-19 treatment molnupiravir exhibited efficacy in preventing the cells from being destroyed.

    Iwami argues that by combining experiments using cells and simulations, the medication's efficacy could be estimated precisely. The team plans to test other existing medications, as well as conduct animal trials.

    (Japanese original by Ryo Watanabe, Science & Environment News Department)

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