Sporadic cases of Ebola in the United States have left scientists scrambling to manufacture a vaccine against the deadly virus. While the disease has been prevalent in many third-world African countries, the demand for a vaccine increased greatly when several U.S. health-care workers were diagnosed with Ebola, and particularly since there seemed to be few answers about appropriate protocol when traveling by plane from Africa, or about quarantine once a worker returned to U.S. soil.
At least two nurses were infected with the virus while caring for a man who later died from the virus. Weeks later, another case turned up in a physician at Bellevue Hospital in New York. While all three health care professionals survived, fear and confusion continued to mount.
While the U.S. health care system has the ability to provide more sophisticated care for those infected with Ebola, major public fears about an epidemic caused research hospitals and centers like the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to take action in developing a vaccine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is conducting the trial in Bethesda, Maryland, says the study has been taking place since September 2 and has been administered to twenty individuals in good health. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, none have shown serious side effects, with only two developing mild fevers, which is a common side effect of most vaccines. Dr. Fauci stated it was not a live virus, but rather a protein shedding of the virus that was enough to encourage antibody production against the Ebola virus, protecting the individual from becoming infected with active Ebola.
“The safety profile is encouraging, as is the finding that the higher dose of vaccine induced an immune response quite comparable to that which has completely protected (lab) animals from Ebola.”
While vaccinations in general have generated controversy in the past and have been linked to illness such as Guillian Barre’s Syndrome, it appears the benefits of the Ebola vaccine have many medical researchers encouraged. The World Health Organization says that 588 health care workers have been infected with Ebola and 337 have died from it, the majority in Ebola-ravaged countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Dr. Fauci is cautiously optimistic about the long-term safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“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.”
[Image via Asian Journal]