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Ebola clinical trials for Liberia

Health officials in the U.S. and Europe are scrambling to begin testing a handful of experimental Ebola drugs in Africa, but an ethical debate is brewing over how to appropriately test medicines amid an outbreak that has already killed nearly 5,000 people. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh, File)

Accelerated clinical trials are expected to be launched in West Africa to speed the search for a treatment for the deadly Ebola virus.

Making the announcement Thursday, the international medical charity- Doctors Without Borders or MSF said it will host the clinical trials beginning next month in three Ebola treatment centers, using experimental drugs that haven’t been through the usual lengthy process of study with animals and healthy people.

It said separate trials will be led by three different research partners and involve the U.N. World Health Organization and health officials in affected countries.

“If we’re going to find a treatment, we have to do it now — which is why we have to accelerate these trials,” said Peter Horby, the Chief Investigator for the trial led by Oxford University. Oxford’s trial will test the antiviral drug brincidofovir in Liberia.

France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research will conduct a trial of the antiviral drug favipiravir in Gueckedou, Guinea, and the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine will test convalescent whole blood and plasma therapy in Conakry, Guinea.

Results from some of the trials are expected by February or March. The largest-ever outbreak of Ebola has raged for more than eight months, infecting more than 14,000 people and killing more than 5,000 in West Africa.

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Human testing of a handful of experimental drugs and vaccines for Ebola has begun on several continents. The current outbreak kills between 50 and 80 percent of those infected in West Africa, according to MSF.

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