Early Ebola vaccine trials prove successful

Apr 01, 2015, 5:54 PM EDT
A health worker prepares a vaccination on March 10, 2015 at a health center in Conakry during the first clinical trials of the VSV-EBOV vaccine against the Ebola virus.

A vaccine for Ebola has been tested twice in the United States and four times in Africa and Europe. It has been found to be safe, and it triggered production of Ebola-fighting antibodies. Reuters reports:

Since trials cannot ethically expose volunteers to Ebola, the production of antibodies is a proxy for whether vaccines could prevent or even treat the disease.
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, which has killed over 10,000 people in West Africa since last spring, according to the World Health Organization. It is the worst Ebola epidemic in history, but finally appears to be abating.
The trials all tested a vaccine called VSV-ZEBOV, which was developed at the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp and then to Merck & Co Inc. It consists of a cattle virus called rVSV that has been engineered to carry Ebola genes, which produce proteins meant to trigger production of anti-Ebola antibodies.
"I would definitely say that both these efforts are moving the needle forward, because in order to get a vaccine into widespread use you have to go through several phases of studies, the first of which is designed to demonstrate overall safety," explained Dr. Amesh Adalja, a health security and infectious diseases expert with the UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore.
"Both teams have shown that although there are some side effects, the vaccine is basically safe," added Adalja, who was not part of either research effort. "That's an important finding in the vaccine development process. Because even though the current outbreak will eventually be completely controlled, we do want to be sure we have something safe and effective in place for the next time that an outbreak occurs."