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

The Star Early Edition - - HEALTH - JEAN-LOUIS SAN­TINI

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.

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