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Accelerated Ebola Vaccine Co-developed by NIAID Shows Promise

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In a great sign for those fighting to control the Ebola virus, an experimental vaccine has shown promising results so far. The vaccine was well-tolerated and produced immune system responses in all 20 healthy adults who received it in a phase 1 clinical trial conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The candidate vaccine, which was co-developed by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was tested at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines, which may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “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.”

The candidate NIAID/GSK Ebola vaccine was developed collaboratively by scientists at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center (VRC) and at Okairos, a biotechnology company acquired by GSK.

The candidate vaccine contains segments of Ebola virus genetic material from two virus species (Sudan and Zaire) that are delivered via a carrier virus that causes a common cold in chimpanzees but no illness in humans. It does not contain actual Ebola virus and cannot cause Ebola virus disease.

In the trial, researchers gave volunteers ages 18-50 an intramuscular injection of vaccine, with half receiving a higher dosage, then tested their blood at two weeks and four weeks following vaccination. All 20 volunteers developed anti-Ebola antibodies within four weeks of receiving the vaccine. Antibody levels were higher in those who received the higher dose vaccine.

Further analysis of the volunteers’ blood revealed that for many of them, especially those who received the higher dose, the vaccine also prompted production of T cells, which may be an important part of immune protection against Ebola.

No serious adverse effects were observed in any of the volunteers, although two people who received the higher dose vaccine did develop a brief fever within a day of vaccination.

The New England Journal of Medicine has reported the study’s interim results online and will soon publish them in print. Want to learn more? NIAID has also posted a Q&A about early-stage Ebola vaccine clinical trials, and you can find more specifics at the clinicaltrials.gov entry for this trial (VRC 207).

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