The US has started trialling Ebola vaccine on human beings after it was successfully tried on monkeys. The human trials will be extended to Africa, where the virus disease has killed thousands, and the UK. Monkeys developed long-term immunity to the virus ─ for as long as 10 months ─ in the experiments conducted by the US National Institutes of Health. More than 2,000 people have died in the outbreak of the deadly disease in West Africa, with Nigeria accounting for eight deaths, Liberia 1,089, Guinea 517 and Sierra Leone 491. The disease was brought to Nigeria by a Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, who died in Lagos.
Reports say several experimental treatments are now being considered to help contain the spread of Ebola, including a vaccine being developed by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The treatment uses a genetically modified chimp virus containing components of two species of Ebola – Zaire, which is currently circulating in West Africa, and the common Sudan species, according to a BBC report.
The viral vaccine does not replicate inside the body, but it is hoped the immune system will react to the Ebola component of the vaccine and develop immunity. Animal research, on which the decision to begin human trials was based, has now been published in the journal Nature Medicine. Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the BBC: “The good part of this vaccine is that at five weeks or earlier you get full protection. “The sobering news is the durability isn’t great, but if you give a boost, a second shot, you make it really durable.” “We knew this worked in the monkey months ago and based on this paper we started human trials.” Healthcare workers and other frontline staff would be prioritised for vaccination.