FDA approves the first smallpox treatment | Science News

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FDA approves the first smallpox treatment

The drug prevents the variola virus from infecting other cells

6:06pm, May 2, 2018
illustration of variola virus

NO EXIT  The variola virus that causes smallpox (illustrated, DNA in red and surrounded by a protein coat and surface tubules) must release copies of itself to infect other cells. The drug tecovirimat prevents this exit, stopping the virus’ spread.

Editor's note: The FDA approved TPOXX for the treatment of smallpox on July 13, 2018. This story, originally published May 2, has been edited throughout to reflect the approval.

As bioterrorism fears grow, the first treatment for smallpox has been approved.

Called tecovirimat, the drug stops the variola virus, which causes smallpox, from sending out copies of itself and infecting other cells. “If the virus gets ahead of your immune system, you get sick,” says Dennis Hruby, the chief scientific officer of pharmaceutical company SIGA Technologies, which took part in developing the drug. “If you can slow the virus down, your immune system will get ahead.”

An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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