Ebola vaccine a step closer to reality after first human trial
But, it is a long way from being ready for use in the field
RESEARCHERS say they are a step closer to developing an Ebola vaccine, with a Phase 1 trial showing promising results, but it will be months at the earliest before it can be used in the field.
The news comes amid the worst outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever, which has killed 5 500 people so far, mostly in West Africa. Pharmaceutical companies and health agencies are scrambling to fast-track experimental drugs and vaccines that could help.
In the first phase of testing, all 20 healthy adults injected with a higher or lower dose of the vaccine developed antibodies needed to fight Ebola, said the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which conducted the study.
Results were published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines,” said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is developing the vaccine alongside Glaxo Smith Kline.
The vaccines under development “may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks”, he noted.
“Based on these positive results from the first human trial of this candidate vaccine, we are continuing our accelerated plan for larger trials to determine if the vaccine is efficacious in preventing Ebola infection,” he added.
But, the NIAID/GSK vaccine is a long way from being ready for use in the field.
The volunteers were injected in September, and each showed a positive result for Ebola antibodies in blood tests within four weeks. The 10 volunteers in the higher-dose group developed higher antibody levels, the NIH said.
In addition, two of the lower-dose group and seven of the higher-dose group developed immune cells called CD8 T cells, which are an important part of the body’s response against disease.
Researcher Julie Ledgerwood, the trial’s principal investigator, said: “We know from previous studies in nonhuman primates that CD8 T cells played a crucial role in protecting animals (that got the vaccine and then were exposed to Ebola).”
None of the volunteers experienced serious side effects during the study period.
Testing of a second version of the vaccine also began on people last month at the University of Maryland. – Sapa-AFP
TRIAL AND ERROR: A volunteer receives a dose of the NIAID/GSK Ebola trial vaccine at the National Institute of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda.