In 2014, the word Ebola was all over western media. It was streamed here as one of the worst cases ever seen in Africa, taking the lives of 11,000 people in Africa and one person outside of Africa. Ebola was discovered in 1976 and since then there have been multiple efforts to find a cure, but lack of funds caused the initiative to dwindle. However, in 2016 there is a new experimental vaccine on the scene that provides 100 percent protection against the pathogen.
The Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal illness in humans. The most striking motif of Ebola is the fatal hemorrhagic fever which causes the human, or nonhuman primate to bleed from every orifice–giving a terrifying light to the disease. It spreads through direct human to human contact, either from blood or other human mucus secretions.
The latest outbreak in West Africa, which started back in late 2013, is the most complex outbreak since its discovery due to it killing more people than any other Ebola outbreaks combined.
In the past, if there was a small outbreak in a remote village, then the past methods to handle the outbreak were of the laborious nature instead of medical–isolate the sick, wear protective gear, bury the dead. In more populous areas though, like cities, this doesn’t work which is what happened in late 2013. The new experimental vaccine offers a more efficient way to deal with an outbreak, large or small.
The new vaccine, labeled rVSV-ZEBOV, is not approved by regulatory facilities just yet, but the test results of the Guinean trial, led by the World Health Organization and others, were released last week.
“Vaccine efficacy was 100 percent,” the World Health Organization wrote in their study published in an issue of the Lancet medical journal.
The vaccine was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, then licensed to a company called NewLink Genetics. Merck & Co., a pharma giant, bought the license and is now making it.
The vaccine uses an animal virus called vesicular stomatitis virus and attached is a weakened Ebola virus to promote an antibody response from the immune system. It utilizes a ring system just like the vaccine that cured smallpox. When this step was completed, the outbreak was already waning. To test the vaccine, you need access to infected, so the team traveled to a coastal region of Guinea where there was still reported cases of Ebola.
The researchers followed every trace of an infected individual to vaccinate: family members and friends, and then people who had been in contact with those people. This ended up being 80 persons in total, half received the vaccine. The trial then stopped when it was clear to the research team that the vaccine was protecting those vaccinated from Ebola. The Food and Drug Administration assigned the vaccine “breakthrough designation” to allow quick licensing.
A $5 million down payment was made by GAVI, the vaccine alliance, to Merck so that the vaccine is available in copious amounts for the next major outbreak. Since then, Merck has promised to make 300,000 doses of the vaccine for emergency use.
“Ebola left a devastating legacy in our country. We are proud that we have been able to contribute to developing a vaccine that will prevent other nations from enduring what we endured,” said Dr KeÏta Sakoba to coordinator of the Ebola response in Guinea, according to NBC news.