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FDA warns of fraudulent Ebola drug claims

By Toni Clarke

(This August 14 story was corrected to remove reference to Lagos as Nigeria's capital in the second paragraph)

(Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday it has become aware of products being sold online that fraudulently claim to prevent or treat Ebola.

The FDA's warning comes on the heels of comments by Nigeria's top health official, Onyebuchi Chukwu, who reportedly said earlier Thursday that eight Ebola patients in Lagos will receive an experimental treatment called nano-silver.

Erica Jefferson, a spokeswoman for the FDA, said she could not provide any information about the product referenced by the Nigerians.

The FDA did not specify any products in its warning.

Silver has been used as an antibacterial for centuries. Tiny silver particles known as nano-silver have controversially been incorporated into a variety of consumer products such as socks and bedding to help block odors caused by bacteria and mold.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers nano-silver a pesticide. Manufacturers of products that contain it must register them with the agency.

Nano-silver is also sometimes sold online as a dietary supplement even though Danish researchers found in a recent study that nano-silver can penetrate and damage cells.

The FDA regulates dietary supplements and said in its statement that "by law, dietary supplements cannot claim to prevent or cure disease."

The agency said it had received consumer complaints about the Ebola claims.

"Individuals promoting these unapproved and fraudulent products must take immediate action to correct or remove these claims or face potential FDA action," the agency said.

The Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa has claimed 1,069 lives so far. Most have been in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria has confirmed 10 cases of the disease and four deaths.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang)

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