Experimental vaccine against Ebola proves effective in trial

With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa showing no signs of slowing, scientists worldwide are racing to develop a vaccine to stop the further spread of the contagion, CBS News reported.

Yesterday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health, released encouraging preliminary data on a small study that examined the safety and efficacy of one experimental vaccine currently under development. According to the researchers, the vaccine elicited an immune response in 100 per cent of the study's volunteers and did not cause any serious adverse side effects.

"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," Dr Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, said in a press statement.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of the VRC 207 Phase 1 clinical trial. The study started 3 September and was conducted at the University of Maryland at Baltimore's Center for Vaccine Development, involved 20 healthy adults, aged 18 to 50.

Blood analysis revealed the presence of anti-Ebola anti-bodies four weeks after the vaccine was administered. The researchers also detected an increased production in a certain type of T-cells, known as CD8T, which are necessary for the body's ability to maintain an immune response.

The vaccine, which had earlier been shown to protect monkeys from Ebola, also showed no dangerous side effects. Also it seemed to be producing an immune response that would be expected to protect them from infection.

According to Fauci the response was comparable to the level of the response that actually protected the animals, NBC News reported.

Ebola which is raging through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea had infected more than 15,000 people and killed 5,000 of them.

Experts had fast-tracked vaccines and treatments for Ebola due to the epidemic, even though they knew they would not be able to use them any time soon to try to control it.

They hope to be able to make enough vaccine to at least protect health care workers fighting the epidemic.

NIAID was working with vaccine-maker GlaxoSmithKline to develop this vaccine, which used a common cold virus called an adenovirus that normally infected chimpanzees. It did not cause any symptoms in people and was genetically engineered with a small piece of Ebola virus, which in theory, should prompt the immune system to recognise and attack Ebola.