An experimental Ebola vaccine has been shown to effectively protect monkeys against the often-deadly virus, according to a study published Thursday.
The new medicine, described in the journal Science, is what is known as a “whole virus” vaccine.
This means it is based on a non-active form of the entire virus instead of just fragments, and is more likely to trigger a broad immune response.
“The new vaccine differs from other Ebola vaccines,” a statement from the University of Wisconsin-Madison read. “As an inactivated whole virus vaccine, it primes the host immune system with the full complement of Ebola viral proteins and genes, potentially conferring greater protection.”
The vaccine was constructed on an experimental platform that lets researchers safely work with the virus by deleting a key gene the Ebola virus needs to make a protein required to reproduce. The Ebola virus has only eight genes.
“In terms of efficacy, this affords excellent protection,” said study author Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a University of Wisconsin-Madison virus expert. “It is also a very safe vaccine.”
Successful tests were carried out on macaques at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rocky Mountain Laboratories, a top biosafety facility in Montana.
Whole virus vaccines have successfully prevented serious diseases such as polio, influenza and hepatitis, the statement read.
Macaques are very susceptible to Ebola and Kawaoka noted that, “if you get protection with (these animals), it’s working.”
The current Ebola epidemic is the most serious since the virus emerged in 1976 in Sudan and Zaire.
There is no licensed vaccine against the disease which has killed more than 10,000 people in west Africa out of nearly 25,000 infected since the start of 2014, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Several promising treatments are being fast-tracked through the normally years-long trial process.
Two possible vaccines currently being developed — CAd3 by Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline and VSV-EBOV by Merck and NewLink Genetics — have both passed safety tests on humans.
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