Science

Ebola Vaccine Passed Its First Trial

By Vlad Tverdohleb , Aug 04, 2015 06:27 PM EDT
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A new Ebola vaccine has proven 100% percent effective in trials. The vaccine can prevent even people at extremely high risk of infection from contracting the disease. The trial took place recently in Guinea. Along with Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guinea is one of the three West African nations hardly affected by an Ebola epidemic. Since December 2013 outbreak, the Ebola virus claimed more than 11,000 lives.

The epidemic was stronger in Guinea, of the three West African nations. There was also the place where the Ebola epidemic began. For this reason, scientists have chosen Guinea for their trial of the new vaccine. There are great hopes that the vaccine will save lives of those receiving it.

The vaccine is composed of strains of attenuated livestock virus that were "engineered to produce an Ebola protein." It is called rVSV-ZEBOV. Two groups of people have participated in the test. One group was composed of people who had been around the virus for three weeks and the other group was composed of people who had just come into contact with an infected person.

The technique used by researchers to create the vaccine was originally developed for the successful smallpox vaccine. The World Health Organization is considering releasing the vaccine for general use and for the moment it has plans to use the successful Ebola vaccine for those at risk of infection in Guinea.

The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine is still a first-generation tool and it's still a place for improvements. Second generation iterations are already studied by researchers. For the moment, the new Ebola vaccine can protect only against a limited number of species of the Ebola virus and it must be stored at -80° C.

The vaccine, even in its present form can help stopping the Ebola epidemic outbreak that has swept West Africa since 2014. Besides the direct risk of contracting the disease, the Ebola outbreak has secondary unwanted effects. Studies have shown that the disease may have cleared the way for measles, a more familiar killer that could claim thousands of more lives.

Researchers at Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University published a study that shows the African countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak -- Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone -- might be highly susceptible now to measles epidemics.

The severe disruptions in routine health care in these African countries affected measles vaccinations as well. People stayed away from clinics and hospitals and numerous health facilities were devoted to Ebola treatment or just closed. The study found that an additional 2,000 to 16,000 deaths could result from a potential outbreak of measles epidemic.

After significant vaccination campaigns, prior to Ebola, from 2004 to 2013 all three countries reported only 6,937 measles cases. Saki Takahashi, a Princeton University graduate student of ecology and evolutionary biology and first author of the study, declared that the report is intended to encourage vaccination by health organizations and governments and to draw attention to the growth and impact of measles susceptibility. According to him, large-scale vaccination campaigns in countries affected by Ebola can stop potential measles epidemics.

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