Vaccine for Ebola virus

March 31, 2008

One of the world’s deadliest diseases, caused by the Ebola virus, may finally be preventable thanks to US and Canadian researchers, who have successfully tested several Ebola vaccines in primates and are now looking to adapt them for human use.

Dr Anthony Sanchez, from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia is presenting an overview of Ebola vaccine development today (Monday 31 March 2008) at the Society for General Microbiology’s 162nd meeting being held this week at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

“The biothreat posed by Ebola virus cannot be overlooked. We are seeing more and more naturally occurring human outbreaks of this deadly disease. With worldwide air travel and tourism the virus can now be transported to and from remote regions of the world. And it has huge potential as a possible weapon of bioterrorism”, says Dr Sanchez. “We desperately need a protective vaccine”.

So far, there have been over 1500 cases of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in humans. Illness starts abruptly and symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, weakness, joint and muscle aches, diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach pain. A rash, red eyes and bleeding may also occur. Ebola haemorrhagic fever can have a mortality rate of around 90% in humans.

Because Ebola virus is so dangerous, producing and testing a vaccine is extremely challenging for the scientists. One significant factor slowing down progress has been that there are only a very limited number of high containment facilities with staff capable and authorised to conduct the research.

“Ebola virus is a Biosafety Level 4 threat, along with many other haemorrhagic fever viruses”, says Dr Sanchez. “As well as the difficulty in getting the right staff and facilities, vaccines for viruses like Ebola, Marburg and Lassa fever have been difficult to produce because simple ‘killed’ viruses that just trigger an antibody response from the blood are not effective. For these viruses we need to get a cell-mediated response, which involves our bodies producing killer T-cells before immunity is strong enough to prevent or clear an infection.”

The researchers have now used several different recombinant DNA techniques, which have allowed them to trigger a cell-mediated response and produce a vaccine that is effective in non-human primates. One of the candidate vaccines is about to be tested on people for the first time, after entering Phase 1 clinical trials in autumn 2006.

“Ebola virus infection of humans can be highly lethal but monkeys rarely survive the infection and have been very useful as animal models. Ebola vaccine trials using nonhuman primates have provided unambiguous results and have allowed the development of protective vaccines to progress rapidly”, says Dr Sanchez. “Successful human trials will mean that we can vaccinate healthcare workers and other key personnel during outbreaks of Ebola haemorrhagic fever, helping us to protect their lives and control the spread of the disease”.

The US team hopes that the findings from their studies will provide important insights that will improve or accelerate the future development of vaccines for other haemorrhagic fever viruses like Marburg virus, and agents such as HIV and avian influenza.

Source: Society for General Microbiology

Explore further: New model could help improve prediction of outbreaks of Ebola and Lassa fever

Related Stories

UN bungles response to Africa's yellow fever outbreak

August 4, 2016

The World Health Organization and its partners shipped more than 6 million yellow fever vaccines to Angola in February to quash an emerging epidemic, yet when they asked country officials the following month what happened ...

Virus spread can be blocked by attacking Ebola's Achilles' heel

August 24, 2016

Scientists have found Ebola's Achilles' heel: a new kind of chemical compound can block the protein Ebola uses to break out of cells and infect new cells. The compounds, revealed in a new paper in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry ...

Scientists pinpoint Ebola's weak spots

August 9, 2016

August 8, 2016 - Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) now have a high-resolution view of exactly how the experimental therapy ZMapp targets Ebola virus.

New study sheds light on how some survive Ebola

June 30, 2016

A first-of-its-kind Ebola study yields clues to how some people are able to survive the deadly virus and suggests possible avenues for treatments that could save more lives.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

herpesdate
not rated yet Apr 02, 2008
Share this with some STD people at www.stdromance.com

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.