West Nile Treatment?

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The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson is participating in the first national trials of a drug to treat the West Nile virus.

The trials will use alpha-interferon, which is already sold as a treatment for hepatitis C.

James Rahal, the study's chief investigator, has said the trial will enroll 40 people ages 50 and older that have been hospitalized with the virus. The trial will focus in Louisiana and Mississippi where most of the West Nile-related deaths have occurred.

Tests have shown interferon to be effective in lessening the symptoms and length of hepatitis. It has also proven effective against St. Louis encephalitis.

Louisiana health officials Saturday announced the ninth death in the state linked to West Nile. The husband of the elderly Orleans Parish woman also has died, and officials are investigating whether he also died of the virus.