Wednesday, November 26, 2014 11:14 pm
Researchers say they are one step closer to developing a viable Ebola vaccine, with a Phase 1 trial showing promising results, but it will still be months at least before it could be used in the field.
The news comes amid the worst outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever, in which about 5,500 people, most in West Africa, have died so far, and as pharmaceutical companies and health agencies scramble to fast-track experimental drugs and vaccines that could help.
Results were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines,” said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is developing the vaccine alongside GlaxoSmithKline.
The vaccines under development “may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks,” he noted.
“Based on these positive results from the first human trial of this candidate vaccine, we are continuing our accelerated plan for larger trials to determine if the vaccine is efficacious in preventing Ebola infection,” he added.
But the NIAID/GSK vaccine is still a long way from being ready for use in the field.
The NIAID is “in active discussions with Liberian officials and other partners about next-stage vaccine testing in West Africa” for efficacy and safety, the NIH said, but no announcement on larger-scale trials was expected before early next year.
There is no licensed treatment or vaccine against the Ebola virus, which is transmitted through bodily fluids and has been fatal in an estimated 70 percent of cases in the current outbreak.
– Antibodies within four weeks –
The volunteers were injected starting in September, and each showed a positive result for Ebola antibodies in blood tests within four weeks.
The 10 volunteers in the higher dose group developed higher antibody levels, the NIH said.
In addition, two of the lower dose group and seven of the higher dose group developed a kind of immune cell called CD8 T cells, which are an important part of the body’s response against disease.
“We know from previous studies in non-human primates that CD8 T cells played a crucial role in protecting animals” who got the vaccine and then were exposed to Ebola, said researcher Julie Ledgerwood, the trial’s principal investigator.