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New hope through Ebola vaccine trial

Published on 23/12/14 at 10:13am
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A report in the Lancet medical journal has highlighted a treatment found to be well-tolerated in healthy Ugandan adults during a trial that will pave the way for a more potent version.

The Phase I trial comprised 108 adults from Kampala being given either an Ebola vaccine, a shot for the closely related Marburg virus, both medicines or a placebo.

The Ebola and Marburg vaccines were reported to generate a comparable response in tests involving Ugandan and American volunteers, revealing that they are (so far) safe and generate an immune response in both populations.

The treatments were developed by NIAID, which is researching a more powerful version with GlaxoSmithKline being tested in the UK, US, Mali and Uganda.

Lead researcher Dr Julie Ledgerwood says: "This is the first study to show comparable safety and immune response of an experimental Ebola vaccine in an African population. This is particularly encouraging because those at greatest risk of Ebola live primarily in Africa and diminished vaccine protection in African populations has been seen for other diseases."

Just recently a newly-formed European consortium was put together to help advance the development of GlaxoSmithKline’s promising Ebola vaccine. The consortium is backed by around $18 million from the European Commission and expects to receive an additional $1.7 million from the Swiss government.

GSK says that the funding is already helping to implement Phase I trials in Switzerland and will now enable the UK pharma firm to begin larger Phase II trials in Africa – especially given these new encouraging results.

Also the global vaccines alliance Gavi has committed to buying Ebola vaccines as soon as the World Health Organization recommends such one for use.  No Ebola vaccines have been approved yet, although several firms – including GSK, Johnson & Johnson and Merck – are fast-tracking trials in a race to keep up with the spread of the virus.

The current Ebola outbreak has killed just under 7,000 people so far, mostly in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A few cases have been reported in other regions, including Europe and the US, although these have since been brought under control.

Brett Wells

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