Friday, September 12, 2014
Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people out of more than 3,000 infected in Liberia, West Africa and Guinea in the ongoing outbreak, by far the worst outbreak of Ebola ever seen. And the WHO says those numbers almost certainly understate the true numbers of those infected and killed.
Amidst rising concern over the rapid spread of the deadly Ebola virus, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the green signal for human safety trials of the vaccine. The first human trial began last week at the National Institute of Health, USA among three healthy volunteers.
If successful, the vaccine will be tested on another small group of volunteers aged between 18-50 years to observe the immune response to the virus. Low doses of the vaccine will be initially given as an injection in the deltoid muscle in the arm. Once sure the vaccine is safe, higher doses will be administered.
Now, with the epidemic deepening by the day in West Africa and traditional public health methods for containing the virus so far unable to keep up with its rapid spread, some officials have speculated that a vaccine might be the only way left to suppress the outbreak, which has resulted in nearly 10,000 reported cases and almost 5,000 deaths in the affected countries.
NIAID has been working on an Ebola vaccine for years. The idea was to develop it to defend people in case Ebola or a related virus, Marburg, was ever used in a biological attack. Previous outbreaks of the virus were always too small and too easily controlled to justify developing a vaccine quickly.
Countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria though are affected, the trial cannot be done as they lack infrastructure facilities. It will be tested in United Kingdom, Gambia and Mali.
The Ebola vaccine was developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in association with a private pharmaceutical company. Elaborating further about the safety trial, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID said that the animal trials in chimpanzees have been very successful. He has additionally said, “The method being used to prompt an immune response to Ebola cannot cause a healthy individual to become infected with the virus.” However, he has stressed the importance of being careful as some of the preclinical trials have been skipped by the FDA to expedite the review process.
Dr Tom Friden, Director of CDC who has visited the Ebola hot zone, stresses that the small window of opportunity is closing soon; however it has not yet closed and time to act is NOW!!.
So far the epidemic has killed an estimated 2,400 people in West Africa, and thousands more are thought to be infected. In response to the growing problem, the United States will send troops, materials to build field hospitals, additional health care workers, and community care kits and badly needed medical supplies.
The Ebola hemorrhagic fever is caused by the Ebola virus and is spread by physical contact with bodily fluids. According to the World Health Organization, "there is no specific treatment or vaccine," and the fatality rate can be up to 90%. Patients are given supportive care, which includes providing fluids, electrolytes and food.