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  • lesurderf lesurderf Jun 12, 2007 10:40 AM Flag

    Team with Oregon State U. ties uses new drug to save toddler

    CORVALLIS, Ore., Jun 08, 2007 (OSU Daily Barometer, U-WIRE via COMTEX) -- In March 2007, a 2-year-old boy lay dying in a Chicago hospital bed, stricken with a rare affliction not seen since the 1990s. Known treatment avenues had failed, leaving doctors skeptical about the toddler's chances for recovery.

    In addition to other signs and symptoms, the boy developed a severe systemic skin reaction that rendered him virtually unrecognizable. The rash, typical of eczema vaccinatum, blanketed the toddler's body in a harrowing shroud of purple sores and bloody skin.

    Desperate to save a life not fully lived, health care officials sought out promising new drug -- ST-246. The experimental drug, never before tested in children, was immediately airlifted from Oregon and was promptly administered in solute form.

    To the collective relief of everyone involved, the boy's condition improved quickly.

    Thanks to SIGA Technologies Inc. and ST-246, the boy who wasn't expected to make it through the weekend was discharged April 19.

    He is expected to experience some permanent scarring due to the severity of the skin reaction, but will otherwise make a full recovery.

    "It was the most terribly exciting, terribly frightening thing I've ever been a part of," said Oregon State University faculty member Dennis Hruby, a 1973 OSU graduate and Chief Scientific Officer at Siga.

    Hruby, a leading pox specialist, was contacted by the Centers for Disease Control one Saturday afternoon in March. Officials debriefed him on the unique case of a boy who developed eczema vaccinatum after visiting with his father, an Iraq-bound soldier recently vaccinated for smallpox.

    "The father was supposed to leave for duty, but I guess he was granted an unexpected furlough," Hruby said.

    CDC officials questioned Hruby about Siga's newest drug development, in the hopes that it would help save the dying boy. Still in the experimental phase, ST-246 is an oral anti-viral medication designed to combat smallpox.

    "They explained the situation to me ... we discussed it ... and in the end, we decided to give it a go," Hruby said. "Then the CDC got a teleconference with the FDA. We told them what we were going to do, and they granted permission."

    Officials arranged for a private charter plane to immediately transport Hruby and his life saving cargo. The redeye flight departed from Oregon on Saturday night and landed in Chicago around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. From there, Hruby traveled to the hospital and met with pharmacy staff to discuss the logistics of administering ST-246.

    "It was designed as an oral medication, and there was no way this child could have taken anything by mouth," Hruby said. "So we had to be creative."

    In the end they decided to open the capsule, emulsify its contents, and deliver it through the child's feeding tube.

    "The medicine had been tested in humans for safety, but it had never been in a child or a diseased person before," Hruby said. "We had to use our best judgment as far as dosage was concerned."

    The child received his first dose of ST-246 by 9 a.m. Sunday morning, showing marked improvement almost immediately.


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