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GSK Ebola vaccine fast-tracked into human trials

Published on 28/08/14 at 11:58am
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GlaxoSmithKline has announced that its experimental Ebola vaccine is being fast-tracked into human studies to help deal with the worst-ever outbreak of the virus.

The London-based firm says its research into the vaccine, which has currently only been tested in animals, was being accelerated with funding from an international consortium.

The company also plans to build up a stockpile of up to 10,000 doses for emergency deployment, if results from the studies are deemed good enough.

This comes as the death toll for the virus has reached 1,500 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with more than 3,000 confirmed cases – mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The epidemic in the region, the deadliest since the disease was first discovered in 1976, has killed nearly as many people as all the previous known outbreaks combined.

“More than 40% of the total number of cases have occurred within the past 21 days. However, most cases are concentrated in only a few localities,” the United Nations health agency says in a statement.

More than 20,000 people may be infected with the Ebola virus before the outbreak in West Africa is controlled and curbing the epidemic will cost at least $490 million, according to WHO.

The candidate vaccine, which is being co-developed with the US National Institutes of Health, is expected to be given to healthy volunteers in Britain and the US from around mid-September.

The study will then be extended to volunteers in Gambia and Mali later this year. There is already another experimental drug being given to some health workers in the region.

The medicine, called ZMapp, is made by San Diego-based biotech firm Mapp and has already been given to two US aid workers, one of whom made a full recovery last week.

It was also given to a Spanish priest who was working in the region, and the first European to be infected with the virus, but he died in a Madrid hospital earlier this month.

British nurse William Pooley,  a volunteer nurse at The Shepherd’s Hospice in Sierra Leone, has also been given the medicine, but Mapp says its supplies are now exhausted, and will need to make more.

There is not yet enough data to say whether ZMapp is effective in humans for treating the disease.

Ben Adams 

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