As medical professionals scramble to contain the outbreak of the Ebola virus that is currently spreading throughout West Africa, researchers are also hard at work developing new prevention and treatment tools. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, biopharmaceutical researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have seen some success in a new, experimental Ebola vaccine.
The vaccine, known as ChAD3, was administered to four macaque monkeys who were then exposed to high concentrations of the Ebola virus five weeks later. All the monkeys who received the vaccine were protected from the virus according to a statement from the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
According to the institute, protection from the virus lessened over time. After receiving a single shot of the vaccine, only two the four monkeys were still protected from the virus after ten months. When researchers administered the vaccine with a booster vaccine after eight weeks, they found that all four monkeys were fully protected from Ebola at the ten month mark. The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that the booster vaccine prevents Ebola from regaining a foothold within the body by generating massive amounts of T cells.
Human trials for the vaccine were scheduled to begin in the first week of September in Bethesda, Md. With the epidemic in West Africa having claimed the lives of approximately 2,000, the need for health care and aid workers in the region is increasing. According to American officials overseeing the human trials of ChAd3, making the new vaccine available in the near future should help to quell some of the fears of aid workers worried about entering the area.
The vaccine was developed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. It contains no infectious Ebola virus material, but instead allows Ebola genes to enter cells through a chimpanzee cold virus. The genes do not replicate, but prompt the cells to make a immune response to their presence.