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Human Trials for the Ebola Vaccine Set to Start

Update Date: Aug 28, 2014 10:28 AM EDT
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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa could reach 20,000 people, especially if the efforts to control it are not improved. However, due to poor medical care and equipment in combination with the lack of a cure and a vaccine, the virus continues to spread.

One method of prevention that the researchers are taking is set to start next week in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both nations will start human trials to test a potential Ebola vaccine.

"Developing a new vaccine is complex with no guarantees of success and it is still early days for our Ebola vaccine candidate," Dr. Moncef Slaoui, at GlaxoSmithKline, the company that is manufacturing the vaccine, said according to BBC News. "But we are encouraged by progress so far and will do the best we can, along with WHO and our partners, to speed up development and explore ways in which the vaccine could contribute to the control of this or future Ebola outbreaks."

The vaccine was manufactured with one Ebola virus protein. Once the vaccine is injected, it will trigger an immune response that would not cause an infection. Instead, the vaccine should ideally offer protection against the virus. In the first part of the trial, the vaccine will be given to 60 healthy participants in the UK. If the vaccine is successful, it will be given to 80 healthy volunteers in The Gambia and Mali.

"The early stage trial will begin initial human testing of a vaccine co-developed by NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and will evaluate the experimental vaccine's safety and ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults," the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said in a statement reported by NBC News. "Testing will take place at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland."

The NIH added, "In parallel, NIH has partnered with a British-based international consortium that includes the Wellcome Trust and Britain's Medical Research Council and Department for International Development to test the NIAID/GSK vaccine candidate among healthy volunteers in the United Kingdom and in the West African countries of Gambia (after approval from the relevant authorities) and Mali."

The researchers hope that if the vaccine works, it can be distributed to at-risk countries starting in 2015. The UK trial was funded by the Wellcome Trust, the UK Department for International Development and the Medical Research Council. The first U.S. trial was sponsored by the NIH.

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