Two New Ebola Virus Vaccines Look Promising

Two new experimental Ebola Virus vaccines have been recently deemed “safe enough” for clinical trials being conducted in Liberia, according to the U.S. National Health Institutes (NIH). One of the experimental vaccines is from well known pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, and the other from a new bio-tech start-up called the NewLink Genetics Corp whose results were released in a study yesterday on Thursday.

The Ebola epidemic that began in West Africa around one year ago has been responsible for the deaths of around 10,200 people in West African countries such as Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The virus is on the decline, leading to some believing the epidemic may finally be under control, thus easing the travel bans for travelers looking to go to the region.

The two Ebola Virus vaccines are that are currently being tested are being used on more than 600 volunteers in Liberia in a mid-stage clinical trial by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a branch of the NIH. Due to some preliminary favorable results, the study is now advancing to the next phase of testing.

In this next phase, additional volunteers will be inoculated with either the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) vaccine, the NewLink vaccine, or a dummy shot, to see how their immune system responds by producing anti-Ebola antibodies.

None of the volunteers are intentionally exposed to the deadly virus. Instead, the immune response is used as a proxy to see how effective the vaccine would be should someone be exposed.

The researchers will continue to enroll new volunteers in the trial up through late April. They hope to enlist around 1,500 new people. They are more inclined to look for women since in the original study, they only made up 16 percent of the volunteers and were a limited sample in the study. The scientists want to be sure there are no gender-related differences in the immune response.

The volunteers will be followed for at least one year, with blood samples tested every 6 to 12 months after vaccination to determine how their immune response reacts to the Ebola Virus vaccines.