We finally have our first smallpox treatment—just in case

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Capsules of the drug TPOXX. Image credit: SIGA/Alternative Press

Fear of another smallpox pandemic keep you up at night? You’ll be happy to hear the FDA approved tecovirimat (Tpoxx) on [July 13]. It’s the first drug designed to treat the infectious disease, which kills about 30 percent of the people who contract it.

Smallpox may no longer exist in the wild, but the virus does still exist in the lab. Right now, we know of at least two labs with sample of smallpox in their freezers, one in Russia and one at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Other samples could exist elsewhere, and there’s also the possibility that someone could use the latest gene-editing technology to recreate the virus.

Because most smallpox vaccination efforts ended when the disease was officially eradicated in 1980, most people born after that date are not protected against it. That means smallpox has the potential to cause a pandemic if the virus ever makes its way back into the general population.

Related article:  CRISPR legal battle front: UC Berkeley wins pair of patents

So, if smallpox is still such a threat, why don’t we just keep vaccinating everyone? Well, the smallpox vaccine is dangerous, for one. It has the potential to cause serious, even deadly, side effects.

Hopefully no one ever needs to use Tpoxx. But knowing a smallpox treatment exists should help us all sleep a bit better at night.

Read full, original post: The FDA Just Approved a Drug to Keep Us a Little Safer From Another Pandemic

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